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University of South Dakota 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: Omaha, Nebraska

Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts: Media and Journalism – Strategic Communications; Bachelor of Business Administration: Marketing

Dance Marathon Involvement: Over the course of my four years involved with Dakotathon at the University of South Dakota, I have personally fundraised over $5,600 for Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD. I was External Overall Chair, raising $3,550 (senior year), Sponsorship Tri-Chair (junior year) and a participant dancer (sophomore and junior year).

Campus/Community Involvement: Pi Beta Phi (4 years): Vice President of Communications, Social Chair; Student Government Association (1 year): Sorbe & Green Campaign Manager, Director of Communications; Beacom School of Business Peer Advisor (2 years); Vermillion High School Dance Coach (3 years)

Awards/Recognition: Pi Beta Phi Outstanding New Member; Coyote Distinction Scholarship; Norma Brown Scholarship; Barbara Bergren Stewart Scholarship

Post-Graduation Plans: I am currently interviewing at few jobs in Omaha, Chicago and Washington DC and I’m excited to see where I end up living after graduation. My biggest goal after graduation is to be in a role that is just as rewarding to serve in as the work I’m doing. I’m a firm believer in working toward something that is bigger and better than yourself, so being able to utilize my skill and qualifications in a role is a big goal of mine.

The Dakotathon Executive Board before their 2019 Dance Marathon event.

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

Without a doubt, I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for Dance Marathon, let alone the type of leader. This role has challenged, pushed and rewarded me in more ways that I can count, and I can’t thank everyone who got me here enough. Throughout this journey, I developed a sense of understanding and balance that I didn’t have before. I understood my role as an overall was to be a guide, soundboard and role model for our team. I learned to lead by example and help when I knew I was needed, but also step back and let each person take control of their responsibilities and have them be all their own. With that understanding, I gained a balance in my work both within Dance Marathon and with everything else in my life. Co-Overall of DM was essentially the best non-paid job I could have ever asked for but learning how to balance everything in my life was a challenge that eventually became a skill, especially when our event drew closer and deadlines were fast approaching. I credit all that I am as an individual and leader to Dance Marathon.

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

Over the past two years, my co-chair and I really focused on what we call our Miracle Makers (dancer participants). We made it a cornerstone that, although the executive team works all year to plan fundraising events, communicate with families and participants and plan our 24-hour event and work with our leadership team, it’s not about us. We are here to support, help and motivate everyone else, and that’s what I tried to stress this entire year. It’s easy to see the cause connection Dance Marathon has with our CMN Hospital when in a leadership role because of how much more exposed to it we are. As a first-year participant or someone not on exec, that cause-connection isn’t always apparent right away–and that’s what we focused on. From miracle stories at every morale and leadership meeting to personally reaching out to $0 fundraisers providing help and continually thanking them for their efforts, we made it a priority to put our participants ahead of ourselves the entire year.

I’m proud of the work my co-chair and I did to instill this gratitude to other participants, and I feel we did the same for our executive team. I am proud of the fact that I always strived to put the needs and concerns of the executive board ahead of myself and did everything I could to always be present for exec, our leadership team and all our participants. Being consciously and continuously grateful for everyone who helped make our event possible and Dakotathon a success was the least I could do, and I truly feel like it made a difference. Not matter how crazy my schedule was, I did everything in my power to be there for my executive team, and I am confident that I fulfilled that goal.

The 2019 Dakotathon fundraising total.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

I participant in Dance Marathon because I had a pretty awesome childhood. My best friends lived up the street. I went to the pool every day in the summer. I went to sleep overs and chased after the ice cream truck and built snowmen until my fingers froze. The most stress I experienced as a young kid was on the same level as not having enough time to play outside before it got dark or having the rain wash away my sidewalk chalk master pieces. I want nothing more than for the kids treated at every local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital to have only those kinds of worries. I dance so that kids have the chance to just be kids. I want to be in a world where kids don’t have to worry about hospital visits interrupting a day at the pool, treatments cutting a play day short or being scared or worse, used to shots, injections and pain. I dance so that the biggest stress a child has to face is finding the right jar to put their lightening bugs in and learning how to ride a bike.

Libby at the 2019 Dakotathon Dance Marathon event with Miracle Kid, Reese.

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

In the past year, our Dance Marathon has been able to offer a variety of services and equipment for our families treated at Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In the past year, our fundraising has paid for kids to go to Camp Bring It On, which is for kids currently fighting or who have previously fought pediatric cancer. We’ve been able to fund pediatric oncology events that happen once a quarter, sleeper sofas for parents and families so they are able to sleep comfortably in the room that their child is being treated in, kangaroo recliners for the NICU and so much more.

We’re able to provide direct child and family assistance for one child for an entire year for just $500, and that is unbelievable. Knowing how far $500 can go for families to cover reimbursements and assistance for travel expenses, specialty foods and formulas, asthma, diabetic and cystic fibrosis that is not covered by insurance is something truly special. We’re able to provide lifechanging, and lifesaving resources to the families we’ve grown so close to and being able to see and hear first-hand how we are helping these kids reason in itself for people to donate.

People should donate to our CMN Hospital because these kids, and every kid affected by local CMN Hospitals, deserve nothing less than the best treatment, the most resources, and unending support from us. These kids and families do not deserve what they are going through, and no one does, so if someone has the financial resources to help these families, it’s the least we can do for them because they shouldn’t be fighting these battles alone. People should donate to our CMN Hospital so that kids can just be kids.

Members of Dakotathon and Dance Marathons at South Dakota State University and Augustana University visiting Sanford Children’s Hospital.

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

If students want to be a part of something that will undoubtedly change their life, then they need to join Dance Marathon. As cliché as it is saying “to be a part of something bigger than yourself,” it’s so true. I’ve never felt more passionate about anything in my life, and the success these programs create aren’t for selfish reasons. We all ugly cry at reveal not because we made that money for ourselves, but because we know it’s helping the kids that we are fortunate enough to spend time with and hear about their stories. Getting involved in Dance Marathon means you understand that there are bigger and better things to do with your life and that given the opportunity, you can give back. It’s the most rewarding organization to be a part of, as you get so much inspiration, love and support out of it as you give into it, and that’s reason enough for students to get involved in their campus’s Dance Marathon.

Libby with her family celebrating her graduation in May 2019.
Libby with members of Pi Beta Phi at Dakotathon 2019.

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.

Learn more about Miracle Network Dance Marathon:

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