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San Diego State University Senior Receives 2019 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award

From the thousands of graduating seniors who have participated in Miracle Network Dance Marathon at the approximately 300 colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada, twenty students were selected to receive the 2019 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award for making an exceptional impact within their Dance Marathon program, on their individual campus and for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. To see all of this year’s recipients, click here

Hometown: Alameda, California

Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Media Studies, Public Relations; Minor in Marketing

Dance Marathon Involvement: During my time involved in Dance Marathon at San Diego State University and personally raised $5,663 for Rady Children’s Hospital, I served as the Director of Public Relations (2018) and the Executive Director (2019)

Campus/Community Involvement: Gamma Phi Beta Sorority (Academic Chairwoman); SDSU Ambassador (Morale Officer, Orientation Lead); Homecoming Court 2018

Post-Graduation Plans: I will be joining the PR team at a local healthcare and biolife integrated marketing communications agency.

What personal accomplishment/contribution are you most proud of from your involvement in Dance Marathon?

From my involvement with Dance Marathon, I am most proud of the relationship I formed with the Robinson I met Sosy and her family at another Dance Marathon in San Diego in 2018. Her son, Gideon, had 13 months remaining in his treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, after being diagnosed at five years old. I first met Sosy to interview her for a social media piece we were doing to feature #MomsofDanceMarathon. The stories she shared with me about the joyous memories they made in Rady Children’s Hospital reinforced my desire to support the hospital in every way. When Sosy came to our event for the first time, Gideon was exactly 365 days away from the end of treatment. A month later when I stepped into the role of Executive Director, the first thing I did was offer a position on the Executive Board to Gideon, to serve as our first Rady Rockstar. Sosy and I became good friends, as I was in awe of her strength and the way she gives love to everyone she meets. We included Gideon and his family in everything we did throughout the year and treated them like our DM royal family through holiday gifts, hotel stays and many memories. As we approached the big event, Sosy and I discussed the idea of Gideon completing his treatment on stage at the closing ceremonies. After Gideon took his last chemotherapy pill, the final total was revealed and the participants left, Gideon found every single board member and gave them a hug before he left. Among the accomplishments of rebranding our program, securing partnerships with national brands, leading a team of 50 fearless leaders, speaking at Children’s Hospitals Week,raising over $300,000, defending our role as largest Dance Marathon on the West Coast and dancing for 45 total hours in my college career, my proudest accomplishment culminated with Gideon. I am so proud to have provided his family the opportunity to honor his strength and his battle with cancer in away that would not have been possible without Dance Marathon. I am proud to have provided the platform for Gideon and our board members to form life-changing friendships. I am proud to have made their hard times easier and their celebratory times larger than life. I am proud to have forever friends in the Robinsons.

With Gideon after he took his last chemo treatment at DM at SDSU 2019.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

My reason to participate has changed each year. The first year I participated, it was simply to have a good time and support my friends who were part of the Executive Board. The second time I participated, I danced to honor Madi Taylor, who inspired me to commit for the kids during my first event. I heard Madi’s story in hour three of fifteen that night, and at that point I was considering leaving the event because I was already tired. Madi’s mom shared about her treatment, which included over 50 rounds of chemotherapy, and I thought to myself, “If this little girl can do that, I can dance for 15 hours.”Madi’s story helped me understand the dance marathon movement all in one moment. She passed away before my second dance marathon event after her cancer returned for the third time, so my night was dedicated to her. The third and final time I participated was driven by the thought of providing a life-changing experience for the patient families and students who would get to experience Dance Marathon for the first time as I had.

With Rady Children’s Miracle Kid Kaylee and her mom.

How has Dance Marathon impacted you as a student leader? What specific skills have you developed during your involvement?

Dance Marathon has provided the context for the goals I will set for the rest of my life. I will forever chase the challenge and fulfillment that Dance Marathon provided for me. As a student leader I have learned to lead with compassion, act with intent and think with my brain and my heart. I learned how valuable relationships are and how to intentionally cultivate them through my experience leading our Executive Board, working with partners and loving on patient families.

DM at SDSU Management Team

How have you seen your Dance Marathon’s fundraising make an impact at your local CMN Hospital?

In most cases, the funds we raise are donated as unrestricted funds to Rady Children’s Hospital, allowing the hospital staff to allocate the funds wherever they see fit. This year however, we made a special exception for a very special group of teenagers. We set a one-day fundraising goal of $25,000 to fund a trip of a lifetime for a group of teenagers who tragically found themselves facing the end of their short lives. The teens were able to travel from San Diego to Arizona to attend Spring Training with the Padres and spend an entire day at a magical water park resort to make their last memories their best memories, thanks to the funding from Dance Marathon at SDSU. The patients were amazed that their water park experience was funded by a group of college students. After they returned home, they sent us a card withpictures to express how much fun they had as a result of our fundraising. One patient wrote, “My heart is filled with joy and you made that happen. Thank you.” Our funds typically support life-saving treatments, but in this instance we were so happy to support memory making for these teenagers.

At #ChildrensHospitalsWeek with CMN Hospitals’ national Champions Eli and Shane.

Why should students get involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon on their campus?

Students should get involved with Dance Marathon on their campus to become a symbol of hope for kids and families who need it most. By dancing, we all have the opportunity to show our patient families that they are not alone in their fight. Whether you know someone who has been affected by a children’s hospital or not, the cause speaks for itself. Every child deservesthe opportunity to heal and live a full life. CMN Hospitals provide incredible life-saving care, but hope heals too and that’s where we best serve our communities.

Hair donation after raising $500 in a day.
Giving a tour as an SDSU Ambassador.
SDSU Homecoming Court 2018.

Miracle Network Dance Marathon is an international movement, involving over 400 colleges, universities and K-12 schools across North America that fundraise for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since its inception in 1991, Miracle Network Dance Marathon has raised more than $250 million–ensuring that no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.

Learn more about Miracle Network Dance Marathon:

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