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University of Rhode Island 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: I helped to start RhodyThon at the University of Rhode Island this past year, serving as the Co-Executive Director of Programming for our inaugural year. This year, I personally fundraised $1,423 for Hasbro Children’s Hospital and helped lead RhodyThon toward a new Miracle Network Dance Marathon fundraising record for a first-year program with a fundraising total of $147,903.28.

Campus/Community Involvement:

Student Research

Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity: Served as National Executive Council Member; President; Vice President; Greek Week Chair; Philanthropy Chair; Alumni Relations Chair; Philanthropy Week Chair; Fraternity Education Chair

URI 101 Mentor (Freshman Orientation Class)

CSV 302 Mentor (Community Service)

Interfraternity Council: Served as Director of Service and Involvement; Director of Public Relations

Student Conduct and Risk Management Committee

Community Holiday Lighting Event Committee

Rhody Archery Club Vice President

Pre-Health Ambassador

Leadership Institute

Awards/Recognition: Dean’s List

Post-Graduation Plans: Entrepreneurship

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

When I set out to bring Dance Marathon to the University of Rhode Island, I was not really sure what to expect for the first year. I was excited, anxious, and nervous all at the same time. All I wanted was to make sure the event was even mildly successful as to make sure it continued in years to come. What actually happened is something I never thought possible. RhodyThon 2018 broke the CMN Hospitals fundraising record for a first-year program, broke URI’s Greek fundraising record, and was the largest ever student fundraiser at the university with $156,000 being raised with 24 hours left as I submit this. Having a part in making this happen and starting a campus tradition is my biggest accomplishment during college. I am proud of this not because of the records, but because it shows the possibilities of what can happen when people who have a shared passion come together to do something larger than themselves. This success shows the viability of the event and gives me hope that it will be an annual event that will change lives for many years to come.

RhodyTHON’s fundraising total reveal at their inaugural Dance Marathon event in March 2018.

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

Having been a founding member of Dance Marathon at my campus as a senior this year, I have had multiple years of student leadership before the Dance Marathon. This was a new experience though being that it was the first year of the event. All the other organizations I have been part of as a student leader have been well established on campus and I was just another person moving through the ranks of the organization. Although I like to believe that I made an impact in those other organizations, I never was able to start something that would hopefully impact others for many years to come. With a unique experience comes a new set of skills needed for that. I have greatly enhanced my critical thinking and problem solving skills through the planning and execution of the school’s first Dance Marathon. With it being a new program, there is no format to follow so everything had to be figured out as we went and there were no solutions the problems that we encountered because of the program being in its infant stages.

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

Many events on campus are specific to a certain organization or group. Many events on campus are service-based. Many are fundraising-based. Dance Marathon is an all-inclusive, year-long fundraising program that culminates in an event for everyone to get together to celebrate their accomplishments and recognize the kids. Dance Marathon gives all the students on campus a way to come together for a common cause. Dance Marathon provides a platform for students to truly make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s not an event, it’s not a fundraising effort, it’s a lifestyle on a college campus. It’s becomes engrained in the hearts of students and is a movement each person lives out in their day to day lives. This is why students should get involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon on their campus.

RhodyThon executive board after their fundraising reveal.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

I grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania and I grew up knowing about Penn State’s THON, which benefits Four Diamonds. Throughout my entire childhood, I always loved waiting to find out the total from that year’s THON, always hoping it was going to be a new record for the school. At that time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. However, as I got older, I set out on the path to become a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon. I have recently come to the realization that the path I chose was not the one I really wanted, but my end goal was the same; to do everything I can in life to help kids. I participate in dance marathon, because it was the biggest way for me to make an impact and help the kids as a college student.

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

A donation to a Children’s Miracle Network hospital is more than just a donation, it’s a chance at something more; an investment in the future of a child; a belief in what is possible. When someone donates to one of the hospitals, they are giving a child a chance at becoming a contributing member of society. They are giving a family hope that they might not have had before and they are showing they believe in the future of what is and what can be. People should donate because that donation can change the world.

Austin while serving as the as a member of the National Executive Council for Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.


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.

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