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University of Illinois Senior Receives 2020 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, 25 students were selected to receive the 2020 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: Lincolnshire, Illinois

Degree(s): Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology; Bachelor of Science in Psychology—Behavioral Neuroscience

Dance Marathon Involvement: I joined IlliniThon my freshman year of college when I applied for the leadership team in the fall of 2016. I served as a Special Events committee member for the 2016-2017 year. I served as the Special Events Assistant Director for the 2017-2018 year. I had a larger part in planning special events throughout the year such as Trick or Treat FTK, and implemented a new ice skating event with Miracle Families. I was able to observe the first-ever Operations team run the Big Event this year and was inspired by the position. I was honored to be chosen to serve as the Executive Director of Operations for the 2018-2019 year. I worked in tandem with IlliniThon’s Internal Vice President to make large improvements to our program’s Big Event. I knew I wanted to do more for the program, and the kids, so I applied for the IlliniThon 2020 Management Team to continue giving back to the kids. I am incredibly honored to be serving as the current President of IlliniThon for the 2019-2020 year. I feel lucky to have had the chance to guide the work and dedication of all participants of IlliniThon. I have been able to see first-hand the impact that our organization has had on the lives of hundreds of children and families in Illinois. Over my time in IlliniThon, I have raised $4,218.50 for HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital.

Campus/Community Involvement: New Member Coordinator for Pi Beta Phi Sorority; Research Assistant for Juraska Laboratory; Carle Hospital Student Volunteer

Post-Graduation Plans: I am currently applying to research and development positions within various Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical companies throughout the country. My home base is in Chicago, IL, which I would love to return to, but am also looking for job opportunities throughout the East and West coast as well. I plan to return to graduate school after gaining a few years of experience of working in the field. I will continue staying involved in IlliniThon as alumni and mentor to the future student leaders of IlliniThon. I am also planning on spending free time aside from my career volunteering at my local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. I want to continue to be able to do what I can in supporting the local children of the community. This organization has had a transformative impact on my values, leadership skills, and personal life, so I couldn’t imagine not staying involved in Children’s Miracle Network, and giving back to kids who deserve it the most.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

As a freshman arriving to the large campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I knew I wanted to be a part of something bigger than just myself. At the time, I joined IlliniThon to support my sister who was a member of the Management Team. However, throughout my freshman year, my reasons for staying involved in IlliniThon changed. I met the amazing Miracle Families and Kids that IlliniThon supports in the fall of 2016. While I thought I would be changing the lives of these families and kids, I now realize that it was their stories and sense of hope that changed my life. Being able to meet these kids in person and hear their stories was extremely impactful. One Miracle Kid story that stuck out to me was about how at ten years old, Ben told his mom that he was okay with dying due to being diagnosed with cancer. This was heartbreaking to hear. To have the honor to spend time with these kids, talk with their parents, and hear their stories has inspired me to stay involved in IlliniThon. IlliniThon’s Miracle Kids and their medical journeys have inspired me to continue my journey in Dance Marathon for four years now to make the greatest impact possible on St. John’s, all for my heroes, the kids.

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

Because of my participation in IlliniThon, I have learned a great deal about “practical” subjects unrelated to my academic curriculum including accounting, budgeting, insurance, contracts, grant writing, web site development, mobile application development, marketing, stewardship and event planning, etc. I have learned the critical importance of and improved my listening skills, being supportive and patient with others, and how to motivate people to work together to accomplish shared goals. The opportunity to participate in IlliniThon has been a transformative experience in developing my leadership skills as well. I have aimed to follow the philosophy of being a servant leader, and truly learned what that entails. I attempt to give my leadership team the power, and elevate them in their work and what they do for the kids. I have worked endlessly to engage the unengaged members of IlliniThon, so that everyone can see their own impact they have on the kids at St. John’s. I have experienced firsthand how approximately 1,500 participants in IlliniThon can learn, have fun, and develop enhanced professional and relationship relationships as a result of social giving.

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

As the Executive Director of Operations for IlliniThon 2019, I set a goal to take our Big Event to a new level. I wanted to ensure the member experience was one that could never be forgotten with constant reminders of why we are a part of this generation fighting for the next for the kids at St. John’s. I worked hard to move our Big Event to a daytime event, and obtain a bigger and better venue. I worked to obtain more diverse entertainment groups and interactive rentals. I focused on increasing student involvement by utilizing a variety of student groups as entertainment for the event. IlliniThon’s Big Event 2019 was a Big Event of firsts in many ways. The first year with record attendance from our Miracle Families, the first year in a new venue that was accompanied with new security, food logistics and bag check logistics. I am proud of the role that I had in creating a successful Big Event that far exceeded my goals for the position. My efforts have led to a newly created framework in running the Big Event which future coordinators can utilize. The General Member Big Event experience is something that I worked hard to ensure was a great experience for everyone and would contribute to the future success of the program as well.

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

I truly believe that Dance Marathon provides a safe place on college campuses that unite students of all backgrounds against one cause. Everyone can support a great cause that changes the lives of thousands of kids. As much as students can give to Dance Marathon, Dance Marathon can give just as much back to the students. Dance Marathon shows students that they can be a part of a movement bigger than just themselves and their academic studies. Dance Marathon provides a place to find friends that you normally would not have met in another student club. Joining gives many experiences to build one’s resume, and gain experience for future careers and graduate school. Dance Marathon allows a group of college students and the surrounding community to come together for their local children. I think all students who join Dance Marathon will find that Mahatma Gandhi was right regarding “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

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

A contribution of any size to your local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital goes such a long way in providing lifesaving care and equipment for children of your local community. Residents of the community should donate to their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital to give back to a cause greater than themselves. It will highlight the important things in life, and what truly matters in comparison to everyday annoyances. I believe that “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” Working together, residents of the local community can better the life of every child in their community.

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. These students work tirelessly throughout the year to raise funds one dollar at a time by making the ask to family and friends. Their hard work culminates in a 6-40 hour celebration on their campus, where participants have the opportunity to rally together as a community for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Students involved in Dance Marathon gain valuable skills in fundraising, peer management, delegation and philanthropy. Miracle Network Dance Marathon programs have collectively raised more than $300 million since 1991.

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