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University of Iowa Senior, Cole Schuchard, 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: Coralville, Iowa

Degree(s): Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Industrial & Systems Engineering; Minor in Business Administration, and Certificate in Nonprofit Management

Dance Marathon Involvement: I have been involved with the University of Iowa Dance Marathon’s program for seven years. My first two years of involvement with Dance Marathon were as a high school student participant and leader with one of UIDM’s mini-dance marathon programs. My third year of Dance Marathon at the University of Iowa, I was a dancer. In my fourth year, I served as a morale captain. As a morale captain, I had the opportunity to recruit my peers, share my passion for Dance Marathon with them, and encourage them to find their own reasons to dance! My fifth year of involvement, I had the opportunity to serve as a Mini-Dance Marathon Co-Chair where I worked with high school and middle school students across the state of Iowa to establish and grow programs fundraising money benefiting UI Dance Marathon and the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. For my sixth year of involvement I served as a committee member on our Event Committee. As a committee member, I helped to plan and execute recruitment and engagement events across campus at the University of Iowa, as well as plan various aspects of the organization’s Big Event. In my seventh and final year with UI Dance Marathon, I had the honor of serving as the Event Director. As the Event Director, I was responsible for organizing and executing recruitment and engagement events across campus throughout the year, identifying new ways to recruit students to Dance Marathon, overseeing programming at UIDM’s Big Event, and implementing any dancer experience initiatives.

Campus/Community Involvement: Youth Soccer Coach – Iowa Soccer Club; Student Ambassador – College of Engineering; Student Clerk – University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics

Awards/Recognition: I received a Certificate of Recognition from the State of Iowa for my service as the Event Director. Additionally, I was a recipient of the Iowa Scholars Award from the University of Iowa for my academic related accomplishments.

Post-Graduation Plans: Upon graduation in December 2020, I plan to pursue a career as an Industrial Engineer or within the nonprofit sector.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

I joined Dance Marathon because of how the lives of those around me had been affected by pediatric cancer. Just like anyone else that participates in a Dance Marathon program, the reasons why I participate have continued to grow throughout the years. Every family story that I got to listen to over the seven years that I was able to be a part of the organization provided me with another family to fight for and another reason to push on. Furthermore, I was fortunate to have been able to work alongside the most amazing groups of humans that I have ever met. These children, families, and peers helped form a second home for myself. What started as a way to make a difference in my community and a way to support others quickly evolved into an endless pursuit of a better tomorrow for the hundreds of children and families I was blessed to meet along the way.

My participation in Dance Marathon gave me a chance to make a difference in the lives of those around me. I was able to see first-hand, how the work that I was doing was positively affecting others and how important the mission of the organization was. The mission of Dance Marathon became a staple in my life and challenged me to continue to find new ways to better the lives of those that Dance Marathon exists to serve. However, one of the most incredible things about Dance Marathon is that no matter how much time, effort, or energy you give to the organization, the organization always finds ways to give even more back. I would not be who I am today without Dance Marathon. It made me a better leader, a better friend, but most importantly, a better person – and it was worth every second.

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

The accomplishment that I am most proud of from my involvement in Dance Marathon is for the work that my team and I did this past year while I served as the Event Director for Dance Marathon 26 at the University of Iowa. As the Event Director, I was responsible for organizing and executing recruitment and engagement events across campus throughout the year, identifying new ways to recruit students to Dance Marathon, overseeing programming at UIDM’s Big Event, and implementing any dancer experience initiatives. At the beginning of the year my team and I set big goals for what we wanted to accomplish throughout the entire year that challenged what most people considered to be possible. Primarily, we wanted to focus our efforts on two things; getting more people involved and providing them with the best possible overall experience that we could.

In order to increase the amount of students participating in our organization, we implemented a more strategic approach to event planning that focused on increasing peoples’ ease of access to our organization and supporting interactions between potential participants and members of our organization. These efforts resulted in substantial increases in in-event registrations (registrations happening at our events). Over the course of the year, we increased in-event registrations by 202%, to 864 registrants (across six events). We also added new recruitment events such as our Half-Off Registration day where we reduced our registration fee by half. On this day, we registered 446 people in 28 hours, surpassing UIDM’s previous recruitment record of 258 in this period. Furthermore, registrants from this day collectively raised $201,574.66, an average of nearly $452 per registrant. Lastly, we focused on reaching new participants, hoping to establish a foundation for future growth. In total, UIDM 26 registered roughly 1,800 first-year participants, more than one third of the first-year students on campus at the University of Iowa.

Not only did my team and I feel as if it were important to get more people involved on our campus, we felt it was equally important to ensure they had the best possible experience participating in UIDM, in order to encourage them to continue to return for years to come. In order to maximize participant experience my team and I created a “Dancer Experience Audit” to methodically analyze our Big Event and identify areas of weakness and strength in order to enhance the overall dancer experience. Lastly, we also focused on increasing dancers’ cause connection through an increased emphasis on in-event fundraising. By balancing dancer engagement activities with in-event fundraising initiatives, we were able to increase in-event fundraising by 113%, from $84,000 to $172,000.

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

My experiences in Dance Marathon have helped to make me into the person that I am today. Dance Marathon gave me a unique opportunity to lead my peers, while pursuing a much larger mission. Being a student leader in Dance Marathon provided me a chance to enhance my communication, organization, and problem solving skills, among others. However, most importantly, Dance Marathon gave me a platform to develop my ability to lead others. As a student leader, I learned how to work with people that were very different from myself, how to effectively delegate tasks to maximize the capacity of my team, and how to empower individuals and promote leadership development within those I was leading.

Through my time in Dance Marathon, I was fortunate to have worked with some of the most incredible and motivating people that I have ever met. These individuals showed me what good leadership looks like and what it means to be a servant leader. Over the years, I made it my mission to impact as many people as possible, in the same way that they impacted me. I worked to inspire passion, advocate for change, and empower growth in every individual that I had the opportunity to lead. By believing in those around me, we were capable of more than we could have ever imagined. Ultimately, I learned that leadership is not about the ability of the individual, but the ability of the individual to empower those around them in order to maximize the ability of the entire team.

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

There are hundreds of reasons for students to get involved with the Miracle Network Dance Marathon on their campus. First and foremost, Dance Marathon offers participants a completely unique opportunity to be a part of something much bigger than themselves. Dance Marathon is much more than a student organization. Dance Marathon is a movement of one generation fighting for the next. It is an opportunity to create and advocate for change via relentless passion and philanthropic giving. It is a place where children, families, students, alumni, sponsors, hospital staff, and so many more come together, to unite as one, fighting for a better and brighter tomorrow. Secondly, Dance Marathon is a second, ever-growing family. As a Dance Marathon participant, the friendships that you make with those that you fight alongside, will quickly become the best friendships you will ever make. The relationships that you establish with the children and families that you are fighting for, will continue on for many years beyond the day you graduate. Dance Marathon has an incredible way of bringing the most amazing people you will ever meet into your life, if you just give it a chance. Third, Dance Marathon is fun. Although participating in Dance Marathon can be challenging – having heavy eyes from less than ideal hours of sleep, standing on your feet for hours on end, losing your voice from endless “FTK” chants. The experiences you have and the memories you make through participating in an organization like the Miracle Network Dance Marathon on your campus, will last a lifetime.

Why should people donate to their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals? How have you seen your Dance Marathon’s fundraising make an impact at your local CMN Hospital?

Through my involvement with Dance Marathon, I have had the pleasure of a lifetime to witness first-hand how the funds that travel though Dance Marathon to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals transform medicine, and transform lives. Without donations or the fundraising efforts of Dance Marathon programs, we would not be able to provide patients and their families with the emotional or financial support that they need and deserve. The care and treatment that patients and their families receive from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is unparalleled. Despite the uncertainty that surrounds pediatric illnesses, children and their families know that they are in the best hands when they are receiving care at a CMN Hospital. As patient care progresses and evolves, patient outcomes and quality of life standards increase as well. However, progress is not possible without the support of donors. By making a donation to a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, a donor has the ability to directly improve the lives of the ten million children that visit CMN Hospitals every year!

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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