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University of Florida 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: Maitland, Florida

Degree(s): Master of Science in Information Systems and Operations Management with Specialized Tracks in Business Intelligence & Analytics and Information Technology; Minor in Entrepreneurship

Dance Marathon Involvement: Over the course of my four years involved with Dance Marathon at the University of Florida, I have collectively raised $22,745 and served as Recruitment Captain for Dance Marathon at UF 2016, Assistant Director of Campus Relations for Dance Marathon at UF 2017, Internal Communications Manager for Dance Marathon at UF 2018, and Executive Director for Dance Marathon at UF 2019.

Campus/Community Involvement: Warrington Diplomats Program Ambassador (April 2016 – September 2017); Florida Blue Key – Assistant Director of Personnel (September 2016 – December 2017); Alpha Chi Omega Sorority – Panhellenic Delegate (December 2015 – January 2017), Greek Relations Chair (December 2014 – December 2015); Young Leaders Conference – Registration Staff Member (January 2015); Florida Leadership Academy – Class XII Mentee (August 2015 – May 2016); Purvis, Gray and Company – Tax Intern (January 2017 – May 2017); Gainesville Regional Utilities – Accounting Intern (March 2016 – November 2016)

Awards/Recognition: Florida Blue Key-Spring 2018 Tapping Class; Presidential Service Award; University of Florida Hall of Fame – 2019 Inductee

Post-Graduation Plans: After graduation, I will moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to work as a Software Engineer at Comcast-NBC Universal. I look forward to giving back to Dance Marathon at UF through the Dance Marathon Alumni (DMA) association!

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

Madison with Miracle Kid, Kendall.

I think my reasons for participation in Dance Marathon change on a daily basis – the list continually grows and evolves with each encounter I have. If I had to choose just one reason for participation in Dance Marathon, it would be because of the relationships I’ve made. The list of these relationships is endless – Dance Marathon has provided me with the best friends I’ve ever known. It has provided me with mentors who I look up to and will rely on for years to come. It has provided me with daily interactions with thousands of the most passionate students I’ll ever meet. Most importantly, Dance Marathon has provided me with relationships with our Miracle Families. No relationship will compare with that of my feelings towards Kendall or Bella or Ayden or the 90 other Miracle Children that Dance Marathon at UF supports. Additionally, these tiny superheroes come with siblings and parents that I adore. Most importantly, words will never describe the admiration I have for our Miracle Parents. Their strength and resiliency will inspire me for years to come. One day when I become a mother, I hope to be half of the parents they are to their children.

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

Over the last five years, Dance Marathon has taught me the importance of teamwork. Teamwork, which comes with trust, good communication, and respect for one another, is the key to success. Learning to trust and rely on others isn’t something that has always come naturally to me, as I’ve always been one to want to do everything myself. I used to feel more comfortable knowing that if I had done it, it would be right. But gradually, Dance Marathon at UF taught me this isn’t usually the case – using my teammates often produces much better results than I could have even imagined. Being able to effectively communicate my ideas and unite with other passionate student leaders to make dreams come to life was one of my favorite parts about being Executive Director. Something as small as a minimal fundraising push transformed into one of our most successful in-event fundraising tactics, simply because of the creativity and excitement that I shared with other members on the Overall Team about this idea. However, with any team there comes chaos and conflict. It’s difficult being one of twenty students responsible for a multi-million-dollar organization. There isn’t always one right answer, one correct way to do things, or one perfect example – often times resulting in constructive disagreement among the team. One of my largest areas of growth this past year, as Executive Director, was learning the best ways to promote and facilitate conflict resolution among the Overall Team. It was amazing to watch twenty people, including myself, find the value in conflict resolution and use it to move our organization forward in the best possible way. Dance Marathon at UF taught me to always believe in the best in others, no matter the situation. Learning to respect everyone on the team was a challenge at first but quickly became second nature. Dance Marathon unites thousands of the most passionate students, all fighting to provide the kids at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital with bigger and brighter tomorrows.

The Dance Marathon at UF 2019 fundraising total reveal.

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

Throughout my involvement with Dance Marathon at UF, we’ve worked to create new traditions that would benefit our organization for future years to come, ultimately leading us to make a larger impact on our local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. I worked to create an all-inclusive environment for every student on UF’s campus. For example, we worked to make small changes, such as starting yearlong participant communication – learning to actively engage with all 1,600+ registered participants throughout the year. We wanted them to feel the excitement and passion that surrounds Dance Marathon at UF before the 26.2-hour event arrived. This change, coupled with larger changes, such as attending and participating other organization’s events, created a spark on our campus. Captains and Emerging Leaders began to attend organization’s hospitality nights and their philanthropy events, reminding our organizations that we value their participation in Dance Marathon and are excited to support them in their individual endeavors. Additionally, we started new traditions like giving back on Giving Tuesday to our community partners, such as Keep Alachua County Beautiful and the Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County. One of my favorite parts of Giving Tuesday was delivering notes back to faculty, staff and other departments on campus. I delivered notes to the University Police Department and Student Activities and Involvement staff – both of whom we rarely take time to appreciate, but always should. These new traditions gave students more to believe in and proved to the Gainesville community that #WhenWeBelieve in each other, anything is possible.

Madison speaking on stage at DM at UF’s 2019 Dance Marathon event.

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

Dance Marathon at UF has given me a purpose. It has provided me with a lifelong passion to give back to my community, created new friendships that I now view as family members, and given me a platform to make a tangible impact on my local community. Whether a student wants to get involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon because they are looking for a place to give back, or they just want to expand their circle of friends, Dance Marathon at UF has a place for them. It is a community, rather a family, that reaches thousands of students on UF’s campus and alumni members across the country. Miracle Network Dance Marathon is one generation fighting for the next, but it’s also so much more. Dance Marathon at UF develops young students into the leaders of tomorrow through a variety of leadership opportunities that every student can grow from.

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

Each time I visit UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, I find new ways that Dance Marathon at UF’s fundraising has made an impact. Whether this be hearing “thank you” from doctors and nurses, seeing the bright, colorful mosaic tiles at the entrance, or finding small miracle balloon stickers on pieces of equipment – Dance Marathon at UF is everywhere inside my local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. On my most recent hospital tour with CEO of UF Health Shands, Ed Jimenez, I received a premature baby diaper. It must only be 2” x 2” because it fits perfectly in the palm of my hand. Upon receiving this diaper from a nurse, located within the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that Dance Marathon at UF donated over $1 million to fund, she spoke about how a majority of the babies in the NICU come from other hospitals across the state. They were all transported there via helicopter or ambulance (which Dance Marathon at UF also helped fund!) so they could receive the best care in the state. While I may never know every child that will benefit from Dance Marathon at UF’s fundraising, I do know it will impact thousands of children – not just this year, but for years to come. Donations that are made to our CMN Hospital will be used to ensure UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital can continue to provide patients with extraordinary patient care, live-saving equipment, and educational research grants to find cures for childhood

Graduating members of the 2018-2019 DM at UF Overall Team.

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.

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