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University of Florida Senior Receives 2018 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 2018 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

Dance Marathon Involvement:

Dance Marathon at the University of Florida

  • Outreach Overall Director (DM 2018) (personal fundraising: $10,460)
  • Marathon Relations Assistant Director (DM 2017) (personal fundraising: $5,251)
  • Marathon Relations Captain (DM 2016) (personal fundraising: $3,505)
  • Dancer (DM 2015) (personal fundraising: $1,615)

Gainesville High School Dance Marathon

  • Co-Founder (2012-2013 school year)
  • Overall Director handling external affairs (sponsorships, hospitality, etc.) (2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years) (contributing over $1,000 in personal fundraising each year)

Campus/Community Involvement:

Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, Eta Xi Chapter: Charter Member; Assistant New Member Educator (November 2015-November 2016); Parliamentarian (November 2016-November 2017)

Panhellenic Council: Panhellenic Counselor (Pi Chi) (Fall Recruitment 2016 and 2017); Judicial Board Member (January 2017-December 2017)

Florida Club Gymnastics Team: Member (beginning September 2014); Community Service Chair (April 2015-April 2016); Co-Meet Chair (April 2016-April 2017); Alumni Correspondent (April 2017-April 2018)

Order of Omega All Greek Honor Society: Member (November 2016-present)

Jay Curtis for Gainesville City Commission Campaign: Intern (January 2015-April 2015)

MIT Museum: Education Programs Intern (May 2015-July 2015)

Lauren Poe for Gainesville Mayor Campaign: Finance Director (January 2016-March 2016)

Gainesville Mayor’s Office: Intern for Mayor Lauren Poe (July 2016-present)

UF Teach Secondary Mathematics and Science Education Program: Peer Mentor/Teaching Assistant (January 2015-April 2016)

University of Florida Economics Department: Grader for ECO 3203 (January 2018-present)

Awards/Recognition: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Anderson Scholar with High Distinction (Fall 2016); Florida Blue Key Leadership Honorary (Spring 2017 tapping class); Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society (inducted Fall 2017); Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society (inducted Spring 2018); College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Excellence Award (Spring 2018); Expected to graduate Summa Cum Laude (May 2018)

Post-Graduation Plans: After graduation, I will be attending the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy to earn a Master’s in Public Policy.And, of course, I will be continuing my involvement with Dance Marathon through Chicago Dance Marathon and as a DM at UF Dance Marathon Alumni member!

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

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockefeller
It can sometimes be true that success breeds complacency. In an organization that constantly seeks to grow – not for its own benefit, but for the benefit of those its funds support – this can never be allowed to hold true.

This year we broke down barriers in order to redefine what success would look like for DM at UF. One of the biggest projects my team undertook this year was rebranding our annual run – the FT5K – to the new Warrior Run, an obstacle course-style race. There were challenges from the moment we decided to make the change. We struggled to acquire the necessary donations and materials. People around me on the leadership team said it could never work. We debated locations and logistics. We wondered if the weather would hold out. In the end though, the first annual Warrior Run was a resounding success. What people loved most was the metaphor – the obstacles that participants had to overcome represented their willingness to stand alongside the kids at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital as they fought to overcome their own obstacles and win their own battles. It was quite simply fun and people wanted to be there. They were already looking forward to next year. The risk was worth the reward.

The whole year for my team was filled with chances and changes. We held our first ever golf tournament, which had failed to get lift off for the previous two years. We tried a new location for our FTK Festival and completed redid the FTKickoff event. Finally, we worked tirelessly to continue to develop the brand that would surround the Miracle Gala, only in its second year of existence. Not everything worked, and we learned a lot, but the overall tone for the year was success. The contribution that I am most proud of is a legacy of boldness and creativity within Dance Marathon at UF. We took chances. We Redefined Tomorrow. We made good great.

Analiese and members of the Community Outreach Captain Team at DM at UF 2018.

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

You will hear it again and again: “Dance Marathon is a family.” And it is true. But next, Dance Marathon is a team. We are a team altogether. We are on the Overall Team. The Outreach Team. The Marathon Relations Team. We are Team Mateo. We are Team Kaitlynn. It goes on and on. It is a fundamental truth that working in a team is not always easy. Still, like most things that aren’t easy, it is also immensely worth the effort. Perhaps the most useful skills I have honed as a leader in Dance Marathon relate to working in teams and facilitating teamwork.

Through Dance Marathon, I came to understand that knowing the motivation behind someone’s work can be crucial in motivating them and working with them effectively. Just as important is learning your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses and coming to know how they communicate and prefer to be communicated with. All of these go into efficient team function. And they all require work and commitment. You learn these things about the people around you by spending time with them and truly listening to them. As simple as it may sound, the key to being a high performing team is stepping outside of yourselves and looking at the bigger picture from the perspective of the team. You must forget yourself as an individual and become part of the team, and yet, you must not lose sight of your own goals, values, and self. It is much more difficult in practice than in principle and being a part of the Dance Marathon family – and team – has been vital in developing my ability to do this and be a good teammate.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

Last year the CEO of UF Health Shands, Ed Jimenez, said something that has stuck with me. He said, “People don’t remember what you say to them; they remember how you make them feel.” There are many logical, practical reasons why I love Dance Marathon. But ultimately, I do Dance Marathon because of feelings. I do Dance Marathon because of the way that I felt when I was a high school student standing in awe of the magnificent and overwhelming production that was DM at UF. Because of the feeling I had listening to the mother of a child who had passed away the year I danced when she said, “The difference between dancer and cancer is one letter – you are that difference.” Because of the feeling I had as tears streamed down my face while I listened to the Negron family share the fear and pain they felt during some of the darkest moments of their lives. Because of the feeling I had when my mom told me that my cousin’s seven-day-old baby had stopped breathing and was on his way to UF Health Shands in an ambulance. Because of the feeling I have when I see the little yellow and red balloon on a Giraffe Bed in the NICU that is holding an impossibly tiny baby. Because of the feeling I had seeing $2 million go up for the first time. And then $3 million.

But also, because no mother or father should have to have the feeling that Joey’s mother had speaking to us the year after he died. Because no parent should have to feel the way my cousin did holding her gray and limp infant in her arms, wondering if help would be there soon enough. Because no child should have the feeling that Powie has as she sits in her hospital bed in the PICU right now, wondering what her friends are doing at school without her.

With Dance Marathon we create feelings. Feelings of family and friendship. Feelings of brighter tomorrows and better futures. Feelings of hope. That is why I do Dance Marathon.

Analiese with Miracle kid and CMN Hospitals Champion, Nate.

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

I am an economics major, so there have been many times when the topic of altruism has come up in my classes. This is a controversial concept among economists. Can people do things simply to help other people with no aim for any kind of personal benefit? Dance Marathon is the whole package when it comes to helping others. We raise money to fund equipment that helps people right now, but also to fund research which will help even more in the future. We give back to the local community, not just a distant national office. The money we raise at UF goes about two blocks down the hill from the student union to the hospital right on our campus. We also provide service. We give our time, not just to raising money, but also to making families’ lives better. We provide emotional support, friendship, and love. We deliver coffee to moms who have spent the night in sleeper chair next to their child and phone chargers to dads who haven’t gotten to go home. We are babysitters and playmates. There is no better, more all-encompassing organization to participate in to give back.

But, if that doesn’t sell you, Dance Marathon isn’t all altruism either. Dance Marathon provides so much to the students who participate in it. DM is a family for thousands of students on our campus. It provides opportunities for personal and professional development. DM trains students in leadership, presentation skills, networking, and fundraising. Many students can even get experience in their major by working on a team that is related to their area of study, from finance majors on the Fundraising Team to computer science majors on the Design and Technology Team. DM gives me support when I need it most and makes the worst days better. It fosters joy and comradery and love.

Members of the DM at UF Overall Team presenting a check for their 2017-2018 fundraising to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital

Why should people donate to their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals?

Right now, about 10 minutes away on the other side of campus a Miracle Child named Kirstyn is fighting for her life in the PICU at UF Health Shands. She is connected to an ECMO machine that was purchased entirely by funds raised by Children’s Miracle Network. That machine is keeping her alive, performing the functions that her body is too tired and weak to perform on its own. A donation to a Children’s Miracle Network hospital is an investment in the life and future of a child. It might buy equipment, like the ECMO machine helping Kirstyn, the Giraffe Beds in the NICU, or the sleeper chairs in every pediatric room that allow parents to stay all night by their child’s side. It might fund research that will change a child’s life completely. That will take a diagnosis of a life shortening illness with no cure and change it into something curable, like the gene therapy that was just approved for human trials that we are so hopeful will make an impact on Harper’s life very soon. Or maybe it funds a child life specialist who teaches Nate what his next procedure will be like in Teddy Bear Clinic so that it isn’t as scary, or who brings paints for Miss K to create artwork to take her mind off her pain. A donation to a CMN hospital makes things possible that wouldn’t exist if CMN didn’t provide funding for them. And every dollar goes to help a child in your local community when they need it most. These children are superheroes, but their fight is long and hard, and they need our help, too.

Addendum: Just days after this was written, Kirstyn lost her battle. She fought long and hard, and we were all inspired by her bravery. She brought light and color to the lives all who knew her and touched the hearts of many, many people during her thirteen years. Kirstyn is a reminder that, despite the hope that Dance Marathon and CMN Hospitals provide to so many families, there is still work to be done. Not every story has a happy ending; we have to keep fighting until that changes. Support of CMN Hospitals through your time or money helps to show families that they are not fighting alone, and that they have the love and prayers of a much larger army. And, as Kirstyn said, “Love is a remarkable superpower.”

Analiese at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.


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 $220 million–ensuring that no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.

Learn more about Miracle Network Dance Marathon:

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