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University of Findlay Graduate 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: Hamburg, New York

Degree(s): Doctor of Pharmacy

Dance Marathon Involvement: 

I was a participant for the first time in 2014. I immediately fell in love and knew I needed to join the leadership team. In 2015, I became a member of the DM committee and was Creative Design Coordinator. I was in charge of our rebrand from FindlayDM to UF MNDM. My goal this year was to connect back to our cause and put our mission at the forefront: making miracles for the kids at Mercy Children’s Hospital. I also created graphics, designed event t-shirts and was in charge of event decorations.

In 2016, I became a member of the executive board. This year, we had a smaller leadership team so I held multiple positions. I held the positions of Social Media Coordinator, Campus promotions, Marketing Chairman, and External Director. I was in charge of all social media content, and created our first ever brand guide. I sought to create a visual identity that was cohesive and recognizable by all students on campus. I also created all campus promotions, merchandise and graphics/video promotions. That year, I spearheaded our first ever merchandise sale. As External Director I oversaw all PR, Marketing, Family Relations, Recruitment, Alumni Relations and Fundraising and delegated duties as appropriate. Juggling all these roles was very time consuming– in fact one project I took on was creating a viewbook to pass out on campus during our Welcome Week event. It took 35 different versions before being approved by student activities and the university marketing department! I considered this responsibility as an honor. It was all worth it when we surpassed our total!

In 2017, I again served as Marketing Chairman and External Director. My role was similar to 2016, however I now had a Marketing Committee which included 2 social media coordinators, 2 campus promotions coordinators and 1 community promotions coordinator. I worked closely with the members of the committee and helped where appropriate. I also coordinated the merchandise sale and I maintained the brand guide. My role in External Director remained the same. Since I was in charge of a lot of the same areas of the committee, this year my focus was largely on improving efficiency within the committee, delegation, and increasing recruitment efforts. I also helped individuals within the committee with fundraising tips and tricks, so they could reach comma club, too!

In 2018, I served as the first ever Hospital Relations Chairman to increase awareness for the hospital and CMN Hospitals while also improving our relationship with Mercy Children’s Hospital. With our hospital being an hour away, this was always one of our largest challenges and was a barrier I wanted to remove. My biggest goal was to educate the leadership team and the student body on the impact DM has at Mercy Children’s Hospital! While our leadership team always visited the hospital annually, I wanted to share that experience with more miracle makers so they could see what their funds have done. I organized our first ever hospital tour for our top fundraisers. My hope was that by allowing more individuals to see the hospital first hand, they can have a stronger connection to the cause and feel proud of their fundraising efforts. This event was really well received and something we would like to continue in the future! I also coordinated visits to Hippotherapy barn for our leadership team members. Finally, I coordinated events on campus which would create gifts or cards for the kids in the hospital. One of my personal favorites was decorating (and later delivering) Halloween treats for the kids who couldn’t go trick-or-treating.

Now that I am graduating, I am the captain of the alumni team and will serve as the liason between alumni and our current leadership team in our efforts to expand our alumni relations this coming fall!

To date, I have raised a total of $5,850.81 for Mercy Children’s Hospital and made it to comma club three times.

Campus/Community Involvement: College of Pharmacy Graduate Assistant, Interprofessional Education; Academic Support Center Graduate Student Assistant; Student Orientation Leader; Admissions Tour Guide; Beta Beta Beta Honor Society; American Society of Health System Pharmacists Member; American College of Clinical Pharmacy Member; ARxCH Drug Information Publication (Web Design Editor 2016 & 2017); Mortar Board Senior National Honor Society (Alumni Chair 2016-2017, New Member Chair 2015-2016); Sigma Kappa Alumnae Advisor; Sigma Kappa Toledo Alumnae Chapter Member; University of Findlay Panhellenic Association (President 2016-2017, Interim President 2015-2016, Established the Association 2015); Sigma Kappa Sorority (Panhellenic Delegate 2016, Vice President of Membership 2015, Historian 2014, Webmaster 2014); UF Divers; Circle K International/Kiwanis; Pharmacy Mentor; Pharmacy Student Leadership Council (P2 Class Representative 2014-2015); Oiler Resident Student Advisory Group 2013-2015; Former UF Volleyball junior varsity athlete

Awards/Recognition: OilerTHON Top Fundraiser Award 2018; OilerTHON Top Fundraiser Award 2017; Donna Crain King Award for Outstanding Leadership in College Panhellenics Honorable Mention (nationally recognized by Sigma Kappa Sorority, 2017); University of Findlay Greek Woman of the Year Award (2016); Outstanding Student Award College of Pharmacy (2015); London Scholars Program (2015); Deans List

Post-Graduation Plans: After graduation, I will be completing post-graduate training as a PGY-1 Pharmacy Resident at the University of Rochester Medical Center (and will train at Strong Memorial as well as in a CMN Hospital, Golisano Children’s!) My goal is to continue for PGY-2 and specialize in pediatric pharmacy at a CMN Hospital. I currently have particular interest in general pediatrics, endocrinology and infectious disease. I hope to become a board certified specialist and practice as a clinical pharmacist and precept students. Some day, I would like to become a professor at a college of pharmacy.

Alyssa doing APPE Rotations at Mercy!

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

Why I participate in Dance Marathon has evolved significantly in the last 5 years. At first, it was mainly to have fun and volunteer with my sorority sisters, but I immediately felt a personal connection. My mother was told she could never have children—yet here I am! She always said I was her miracle. Even during the pregnancy, she often had serious complications and I was eventually born premature. I was overall a happy and healthy baby, with the exception of a hole in my heart and severe acid reflux that caused my mom to seek medical attention more than once. But I was lucky. I grew up strong and had very few visits to my CMN hospital while growing up. I participate to create relationships with our miracle kids and to see the kiddos in the hospital become healthy and strong, so they could grow up like I did. What really sold me, though, was my first closing ceremony. As we stood in a circle, Robbie took the microphone. I assumed he was a student, but actually he was one of our miracle “kids.” Robbie was college-aged when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and treated at our CMN Hospital. He told his story, and the story of the children he met along his journey, some of whom were no longer with us, and how he knew he needed to tell their stories for them. Following his story, we each had our “hospital bands” cut off which symbolized the feeling a child has when they get to go home. That moment changed everything for me. Robbie’s story hit extra hard because it drove the point home that it could have been anybody, even us. Robbie actually joined on the DM movement the exact same year I did and he was the first miracle I made a close connection with. I have been blessed with his friendship and his encouragement for all these years. Robbie inspires me because he fights harder than anyone I know. But as long as Robbie keeps fighting, so will I. As time went on, I realized that I didn’t want to stop fighting alongside our miracles and I decided I wanted to work inpediatrics.

Dance Marathon is what opened my eyes to my passion. The kids and my passion for pediatric medicine is still a huge motivational factor for me and a huge reason why I love DM so much. I participate for my future patients, so I can help give them a fighting chance. And of course, I participate for our beautiful angel, Kalie. We lost Kalie in August 2017 and it was incredibly difficult. I can’t even fathom the pain her family had to go through. I dance to honor our miracle angel Kalie, but also so no other families have to know that pain. I plan to stay involved in Dance Marathon and support CMN Hospitals until there are never any families who lose their miracle.

Robbie sharing his story at the 2017 Dance Marathon event. Earlier this month, Robbie sadly passed away after his third battle with osteosarcoma.
Leadership team with our amazing miracle kiddos!

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

Dance Marathon has impacted me as a student leader in so many ways. Dance Marathon has taught me tangible skills like time management, organization and delegation, which I will carry with me far beyond the classroom. It showed me how to be an authentic and servant leader. One of the things I learned best from the KIDS, that carried into DM leadership was to never give up. There were so many times that I tried a fundraising tactic and it didn’t work or times when the leadership team started a new event that flopped. This further strengthened my ability to nevergive up, but taught me to also reflect and grow from a situation. Instead of moving on, I learned to think of why something may have failed and how it can be improved in the future. As a member of the executive board, I often had a responsibility to work with other members of the committee, student organizations or student government and even our administration. It was vital to build a good rapport with our student activities office, and to stay calm and collected during frustrating situations. Dance Marathon taught me how to improve communications between different entities while listening to both sides and keeping individual emotions in mind, an important skill in any future career. As a whole, DM has taught me to never be afraid, care for others, to dream big and to tackle the impossible head on, just like the kids do on an everyday basis.

Dance Marathon at the University of Findlay’s 2018 fundraising total reveal.

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

This is a hard question because there are so many wonderful opportunities DM has granted me! I’d have to say one of my proudest accomplishments during my time in DM was reaching Kalie Klub two years in a row. It is important to note that at our university, we only have 3 months to personally fundraise via DonorDrive for the kids due to policies and regulations. In August 2017, we lost one of our sweet miracle children named Kalie. Kalie passed away at age sixteen after battling colon cancer for two years. She was the sweetest soul you ever met, and I still cherish the last hug I got from her. I knew I wanted to honor her by raising $1,600 and joining our new “Kalie Klub.” I had no idea if I would be able to achieve such a high fundraising amount in such a short period of time. Going into miracle week (the week leading up to OilerTHON) I was only at $1,080.29 raised. While even this was an incredible number and I knew it would make a difference for so many kids, I wanted to hit $1,600 for Kalie. At opening ceremonies, I was at $1,305.29. I was so nervous; I had exhausted all my fundraising options. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it. Halfway through the day, I will NEVER forget it, I reached $1,600 for Kalie. My friend was performing on stage, he stopped the concert, brought me up and announced that I had hit Kalie Klub. I bawled instantly. And I didn’t stop. My final total that year was $1,830.29, raising $750 in the week leading up to and including the main event alone. Overall, we reached and surpassed our overall goal of $40,000 for the kids and for Kalie. The following year, I didn’t know if I could do it again. But yet again, I didn’t give up and set out on a mission to honor Kalie’s memory. I hit a record breaking $2,620, surpassing Kalie Klub by over $1,000. These two moments are not just my proudest contribution to Dance Marathon, but my proudest accomplishments in life so far. I am so thankful I was able to honor Kalie in such a wonderful way, and help make a difference for Mercy Children’s in the process.

Second year hanging my balloon for Kalie.

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

One of the greatest parts about my experience with Dance Marathon has been seeing my funds in action. In 2015, I visited the hospital for the very first time and saw our Autism Center which is funded in part by our local DM programs. In 2016, our funds specifically helped purchase NICView Cameras and in 2017 they helped purchase bottle warmers for the NICU at Mercy. In 2018, our funds went towards a new NICU transporter for our LifeFlight. I was also Hospital Relations this year and took our leadership team to see the Hippotherapy barn funded by DM for the very first time. Of course, meeting the kiddos from my hospital has always been rewarding and has shown me the incredible impact CMN Hospitals has on my local community. But the best way I have seen our funds in action is more hands on, as I was very fortunate to be able to complete my Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience hours (aka clinical rotations) for pharmacy school within my hospital, Mercy Children’s and Mercy Health. This means, I spent the year training full time at the hospital I supported for 5 years! I was able to practice as a pharmacy intern during August on the pediatric floor and sporadically throughout the year in the NICU. I saw the child life program deliver a birthday present to a kid who had to spend his birthday in a hospital bed, I saw a micro-preemie be able to be held by mom for the very first time, and I saw lives being saved—and I like to think I had a role in saving lives, too! One of my absolute favorite moments was when I was rounding with the physicians and we went to visit a little boy in the playroom. We got to deliver the good news that he was going home. To our surprise, the little boy didn’t want to go home! Instead, he suggested he stay longer because he loved being able to make friends and have fun in the playroom. And that, to me, is exactly what makes DM and CMN Hospitals so special.

University of Findlay longitudinal students at Mercy for APPE Rotations.

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

Why SHOULDN’T a student get involved with MNDM on their campus!? DM is the perfect example of our generation coming together to change the world. It is such a powerful and rewarding experience. Personally, I not only met my greatest friends who turned into a family in the leadership team, but I met kids who changed my entire life and helped me find my passion in pediatric medicine. I grew personally and professionally, I dreamt bigger than I ever had before, and the work was never “work” to me… it was always just FUN and came naturally. I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for MNDM. I have always believed that MNDM isn’t an organization, it is who you are. It is a way for students to gain friendships, serve the community, push themselves to new limits and honestly have a blast in the process. I believe every student should get an opportunity to experience what I have for themselves.

DM family 2015.

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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