Schools Divided, Shands United

On Saturday, the University of Florida will play Florida State during the rivals’ 63rd game ever! This Rivalry Week is a long anticipated week filled with football talk and predictions about the game. The UF and FSU rivalry is one that is known far and wide and taken pretty seriously by both fans. Each year, the game alternates between Gainesville and Tallahassee. This year, the Gators prepare to enter the Seminoles’ stadium which will be filled with excitement and intensity from both sides.

While we are rivals on the field, off the field we are each other’s biggest supporters, as we unite in our efforts to raise funds and awareness for UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. The Dance Marathon programs at UF and FSU are two of the biggest in the entire country and our combined efforts have tremendous impacts on the children and families at our Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. We believe that together we can make even greater strides in our fight to end childhood illness.
We have joined together in several efforts throughout Rivalry Week to raise money For The Kids. This week, we have challenged our supporters to raise $63 in honor of the 63rd rivalry game between UF and FSU. Those who accomplish this goal will receive a limited edition UF & FSU Rivalry Week shirt! Also, on December 2nd, both DM at UF and DM at FSU will go to Jacksonville to watch the Jaguars take on the Indianapolis Colts! A portion of each ticket sale will go back to Dance Marathon at UF. Come meet some of our friends from Dance Marathon at FSU before the game, and purchase tickets through to get a seat in the DM block!

Transform Today

Tomorrow, our campus and community will come together to ignite the power of Dance Marathon at UF as we strive to make 26.2 hours worth of miracles. Each year, DM at UF holds a 26.2 hour fundraising initiative known as Transform Today, during which students raise funds and awareness for the patients at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. The 26.2 hour time frame represents the 26.2 hours that Dancers will stand at Dance Marathon’s main event in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on March 30-31, 2019. Last year, Dance Marathon at UF raised $540,424.93 on Transform Today. This year, Transform Today will take place from October 23 at 8:00 a.m. to October 24 at 10:12 a.m., with the goal of raising $600,000 For The Kids.

The University of Florida campus and Gainesville community will be filled with excitement and inspiration throughout Transform Today. All day, there will be activities across campus, from carnival games and dunk tanks, to Domino’s Pizza and Hyppo Popsicles at Plaza of the Americas, to the performance of the Linedance in Turlington Plaza. Join us for the Celebration of Miracles at Plaza of the Americas from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. to receive your limited edition Transform Today fundraising incentive hospital bands on Tuesday evening, before heading to the Chipotle Hospitality Night at any Chipotle in Gainesville!

The total amount raised during Transform Today will be revealed at DM at UF’s annual Halloween celebration, Moralloween, on October 24th from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Flavet Field on the University of Florida’s campus. Many of our Miracle Families come to Moralloween, where Miracle Children can Trick-or-Treat, enjoy games and Haunted Houses, and participate in a costume contest. Tickets can be purchased pre-sale for $5 from the DM Store or $7 at the door. Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend this special event, to celebrate our Miracle Children and the hope that we’ve given them through our efforts during Transform Today.

While participating in this exciting day, students remain motivated to continue fundraising by the courage of our Miracle Children, who continue to face each day with a smile no matter how challenging their fight may be. Transform Today is our opportunity to unite as one campus that believes in the power of Dance Marathon at UF to end childhood illness. On Transform Today, we believe that together we can reach our fullest potential, further our impact on this movement, and make more miracles than we ever thought possible.

Fast Facts about DM’s 25th Year

As we are in our 25th year, it is clear that Dance Marathon at UF is not just an organization. Dance Marathon at UF changes the lives of everyone involved – not just the children’s lives, or the students involved, but also the families of these children and the donors who are supporting this life-changing cause. Twenty-five years of selfless love, giving, support and encouragement, but we are just getting started. Each year is a new year to improve – to do better than the last, to raise more money, to dedicate more time and even more love.

Check out these 25 fast facts about DM at UF to celebrate our 25th year!

  • Over $18.2 million has been raised by Dance Marathon at UF since 1995, all #FTK.
  • More than 1 million children have been impacted by DM at UF since our start in 1995.
  • Up until 2008, Dancers stayed on their feet for 32 hours! Today, our Dancers stand for 26.2 hours, the length of an actual marathon.
  • In 1995, the first Dance Marathon at the University of Florida was held in the Rion Ballroom at the J. Wayne Reitz Union. In 1996, the event was moved to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, where it is held today.
  • Dance Marathon at UF is one of the five founding Dance Marathon programs in the nation.
  • We are lucky enough to have over 77 Miracle Families that inspire us daily.
  • DM at UF is still the most successful student-run philanthropy in the southeastern United States.
  • At our first Dance Marathon in 1995, we raised $12,424.66!
  • Over these 25 years, we have had 678 total hours danced and 388,696.2 hours by all of the Dancers combined!
  • DM at UF 2019 involves 20 Overall Directors, 484 Captains, and 196 Emerging Leaders!
  • Approximately 41,128 slices of pizza have been served to Dancers since 1995.
  • Since 1995, we have spent approximately 175 minutes performing the Linedance.
  • The most years that someone has participated as a Dancer is 12 years – Matt Michel was a 12 year Dancer!
  • Dance Marathon at UF has received over 49,000 donations on Donor Drive.
  • Dance Marathon 2019 is on March 30-31st. We cannot wait!#WhenWeBelieve anything is possible.

There are so many amazing things in store for our 25th year! We hope you join us in celebrating all of the miracles we have made in the past and join us in anticipating those to come. #WhenWeBelieve we can end childhood illnesses, we will.

What It Means to Be a Dancer

Participating as a Dancer in Dance Marathon is one of UF’s most adored traditions. Every spring, over 800 students remain awake and on their feet for 26.2 hours. While this task might seem daunting and impossible, over 15,000 Dancers throughout the past 25 years would attest to what a life changing experience it is. As a Dancer, you are part of a movement that is one generation fighting for the next, part of standing for those who can’t, and part of something so much bigger than yourself.

As a Dancer, you will get to firsthand experience one of the most incredible events that UF has to offer. It will be one of the most rewarding things that you will participate in throughout your time at the University of Florida. From standing on your feet for 26.2 hours to hearing the Miracle Families speak and learning the Linedance, the experiences and memories you will gain throughout the event are indescribable.  

Dancing has redefined the college experiences of everyone who has done it. Here are some quotes from Dancers who have graciously shared their memories with us.

“I knew I wanted to dance the second I heard about DM. Standing and dancing for the whole 26.2 hours was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but definitely one of the most rewarding. Whenever it got tough, I just thought about and talked to all of the Miracle Families and they really kept me going with high spirits.” – Dana Smoller, Freshman Dancer

“Dancing at DM is one of my favorite memories I have from my time at UF. Dancing for 4 years was challenging, yet one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I am now a nurse in the neonatal ICU, so I see the direct impact that organizations like Dance Marathon and the Children’s Miracle Network have on these kids and their families. I’m so grateful for all DM has taught me and all it has given to these amazing families. I’m so proud to have been a 4-year Dancer!” – Lauren Calhoun, 4 Year Dancer

These individuals believed that their actions could shape the future. They believed that when our University unites, anything is possible. If you, too, believe that you have the power to make a difference, visit to participate in one of the most fulfilling things you will ever do. Dancer Registration closes September 30th, so apply before you’re left wishing you did!

1 Day until Dance Marathon

In the final day before Dance Marathon 2018, we focus on the word “U.” As we prepare to walk together into the O’Dome, it is important to self-reflect on the past year and how we as individuals have gotten to this point together.

Think about the memories you have made up to this time. Think about the Miracle Families you have met, the stories you have shared, the lives you’ve touched, and those who have touched your heart. What have you learned about yourself from this experience?

Lexi Leitman is a junior here at the University of Florida and a Recruitment Captain for DM 2018. Leitman has been involved with DM since her freshman year when she participated as a Dancer.

“Being a part of DM these past 3 years has changed me in the best possible way. Specifically my outlook on service and what it truly means to give. To give not only donations or time, but to give your full potential and your whole heart, for kids who you may never meet.”

Although Dance Marathon is an organization built upon students coming together to make an impact, it is also important to look at the individual. There is no together without YOU. There is no uniting as one, without YOU. There is no DM without YOU. DM at its core is a group of individuals, with the same passion and drive to make a difference for children who need it the most. DM is a group of YOUs.

As just one, U can start a movement. U can change people’s lives.

So what will U do? How can U make a difference?

Generation. Potential. Movement. Imagine. Limits. Power. Hero. For. Go. U. These 10 words together have a meaning that truly encompass what Dance Marathon stands for. These 10 words together can create miracles. As we prepare for tomorrow, reflect on these words and what they mean to you. It has been a year full of redefining boundaries in hopes of redefining tomorrow, but it doesn’t end here.

Tomorrow, we DANCE.

2 Days until Dance Marathon

The thought of standing for 26.2 hours without resting or caffeine might be intimidating to some, and although this challenge may seem daunting, when you look out over the sea of people and see that number raised proudly on stage, there is no better feeling in the world. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some tips and tricks that make dancing for 26.2 hours more bearable and more enjoyable for your feet and your body’s stamina.

  1. Multiple pairs of shoes

Your feet will start to hurt, so having different types of shoes to change into can help them and alleviate pressure on different parts of your feet. Switching from comfortable sneakers to slippers and back can be a lifesaver!

  1. Comfortable socks

A pair of comfortable, thick socks–or actually a few pairs–is another way to help your feet stay comfortable throughout the entirety of Dance Marathon. Alternate between fuzzy socks and your favorite pairs that match the different theme hours to keep it fun and exciting!

  1. Icy Hot

Icy Hot is a must when your body begins to ache and hurt after dancing for such a long period of time without rest. You will be so grateful to feel the heat and burning sensation that relieves pain in your feet and legs when you’re standing all day and night.

  1. A bucket filled with birdseed… (yes, birdseed) or rice

Although this may sound crazy, many Dancers say that this was the single best thing that helped their feet and legs during the event. Standing in a large bucket of birdseed or rice helps alleviate the pressure on your feet and the rough texture feels amazing on sore, tired feet!

  1. A tennis ball

A small tennis ball can go a long way when helping roll out your feet at the event. Many Dancers will bring them and keep them in their fanny packs or pockets so they can easily grab them and roll their feet out on them.

  1. A towel and bathing suit

You will probably feel pretty sweaty, gross and dirty after dancing for such a long period of time, so bringing a towel and bathing suit to shower with helps you feel so much more clean and refreshed during the event. If you bought a swim/shower package… which is definitely recommended… you will also need these items.

  1. Snacks

There’s nothing like feel-good food to make you feel better when you are starting to get tired or restless. Use this as a time to indulge in all your favorite goodies… so bring on the chips, cookies, pretzels, candies, etc. whatever makes you feel good!

  1. Toilet paper

Although this may seem like a given, it may be a good idea to bring an extra roll of toilet paper in case the locker rooms at the event run out. You don’t want to be stuck without it, so better be safe than sorry.

  1. A portable charger

A portable charger is a lifesaver during Dance Marathon if you are using your phone to document all the fun you’re having on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, all of which significantly drain your battery. Make sure you charge the portable charger before arriving at DM so you can take as many selfies as you want!

  1.   A fanny pack

Last but not least, a fanny pack is a great way to carry all the little items you need with you at all times. It simply clips around your waist, so you have your hands free to learn the line dance, hug friends, offer piggy back rides, and enjoy all the event has to offer. The DM store will sell cute fanny packs with fun sayings on them, so definitely snag one for the event.

3 Days until Dance Marathon

Who do you do it for? We do it For The Kids, For the Families. Our year long effort of raising support, awareness, and funds is solely for them. They are the heart and soul of our cause and inspire us every day. Here is the Miracle Story of a special family who has been with Dance Marathon at UF for 4 years now. 

Q: Tell us about your Miracle Child and your story?

A: Kendall, aka “Miss K”, was born a full-term baby with no known complications prior to her birth. The day she was born, in Ocala, she was found to have multiple congenital birth defects and they diagnosed her VACTERL Association. That was also they day she was sent to UF Health Shands and they became a part of our life. VACTERL Association is an acronym that is used as an umbrella diagnosis. This is not caused by genetics, it is simply a case of the short straw. They do not know what causes VACTERL. It is not common and the more aspects you have, the more rare it becomes. The V= Vertebrae/Spinal issues, she was born with half of an L4 vertebrae and she also has a tethered spinal cord. The A= anus, the opening to her bottom was not in the correct location. C= Cardiac, she was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia. T= Trachea and E= Esophagus, she was born with her esophagus NOT attached to her stomach. R= Renal, she has a duplicated collection system on her right kidney with hydronephrosis. L= Limb….these kids can be born missing random bones, however this is the only component that she does not have. In addition to the above, she was also born with some complex lung issues as well as immune system issues.

She spent the first 7 weeks of her life in the NICU/CICU at UF Health Shands. Miss K had her first set of surgeries at 5 days old. They repaired her bottom and her esophagus. She had her first Open Heart Surgery at 26 days old, her second at age 3, and her third one at age 5. She has been in the operating room more than a dozen times. She is followed by 11 specialists at UF Health Shands. When you include all of her medical components of VACTERL and add her Lung and immune system issues…..the odds of having a child like Miss K is 1:1.5 million.

Q: How did you first get involved with Dance Marathon at UF?

A: We first got involved with DM at UF when Miss K had begun additional infusions to keep her immune system up just after her second heart surgery, when she began rejecting the new valve/conduit that was placed. We had been spending a significant amount of time in the hospital and she loved when the volunteers came to visit. She began to look forward to hospital stays so her “Big Friends” would come to visit. It was at one of those inpatient appointments that we were approached about joining as a Ambassador Family for Shands and then introduced to DM at UF and found out that a few of our favorite volunteers where affiliated with it.

Q: What’s your favorite part about being a Miracle Family?

A: Our favorite part of being a Miracle Family is being able to spread awareness, both for DM at UF, for Miss K’s diagnosis, and for UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. I love that it has given my big kid an opportunity to be part of the spotlight. It has shown her that she is not alone with having a medically complicated sibling. I love how it’s given me an opportunity to see that there is hope for tomorrow with the next generation coming through. In today’s world there is so much hate, violence, and ugly. DM at UF makes our world SO VERY BRIGHT!!  The people involved at DM at UF have touched our family in more words than can ever be expressed via words.

Q: If you could describe Dance Marathon at UF in one word, what would it be?  

A: LOVE. The love I have for every aspect of DM at UF is unmeasurable. Our family has grown monumentally over the last 4 years of being involved. The people involved with DM at UF aren’t just friends to us, they are part of our family. They have seen us at our best and at our worst, and have never left our side. The alumni still keep in touch and let the girls harass them relentlessly even though they don’t need to. This is a group who have personally helped when in the most difficult of situations, especially over last fall when we needed familiar faces at the drop of a pin and in a very difficult time, were there no questions asked. I will never be able to put into words just how much that meant to my family or myself.

Q: What was your “Redefining Moment” within this organization?

A: Our redefining moment within DM at UF was probably with last years Overall Team. It was the summer of Miss K’s 3rd open heart surgery (Summer of 2016). The new Overalls had just been announced and many students were in and out due to summer break. The team really made an effort to come and keep K company after her surgery. This is the first Overall team that we truly became close to during the actual year (and not as they became Alumni). This is the same team who when things got crazy this past November when Miss K was admitted and my brother passed away suddenly, came to my rescue along with many of the current Overall/Captains for this year. Some of these people are in Med School now and they still dropped what they were doing and came to our rescue within 5 minutes. These are people who I trusted enough after getting to know them over last year/this year, to stay with Miss K who actually landed herself in CICU for 3 days. These are the kind of people who will forever remain in my heart. With each passing year, the team gets better and better, yet we still get to remain in contact with those Alumni as well. This, is why DM at UF will always be a part of our lives…and forever remain in our hearts.

4 Days until Dance Marathon

You do not need a cape to be a hero. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They are fighters, believers, and dreamers. Everyone has a hero that has helped shaped their life for the better. We asked members of the Dance Marathon community who their heroes were and why they admire them: 

“My hero is my Grandma because of after all the trials she’s faced (losing a child, a husband, and having breast cancer twice) she still manages to find joy in all of her days and be a light in the lives of those around her. This reminds me of many of the Miracle Children and their families we’re dancing for because while they’re going through the worst possible situations, they manage to find joy and be appreciative of us working to raise funds and awareness for them! They inspire us everyday!” – Lizzee Lohmann, Captain

“My hero is Lauren Atkins because she raises awareness for the worldwide orphan crisis and adopted a baby girl from uganda, Africa.” -Mary Prakas, Captain

“My hero is my mom, Dorothy Eouse, because she is the mother of five and has first hand experience of what it’s like to stand by her town child fighting a battle with cancer and come out a survivor. And, my brother, Matthew Eouse, who is a survivor.” – Madison Eouse, Alumni

“My hero is my Overall, Haley. She is truly an inspiration to all of us. She has been an incredible mentor and our high school programs would not have been nearly as successful without her strong leadership.” -Bryan Greenfield, Captain

“My hero is my sweet Bella girl. She loves so well in the middle of some of the biggest storms, storms a kiddo should never have to experience. Her smile radiates joy for miles and her heart welcomes anyone and everyone without a question. Her resilience in the face of adversity is inspiring. She may be 6 years old, but she’s certainly my biggest hero.” -Katie Cornelius, Assistant Director

“My mom is my hero because she always works her hardest to make my brother and I happy. Her selflessness inspires me to help others. She constantly puts our needs before hers and I wouldn’t be where I am without her.” -Katie Schramm, Dancer

“My DM hero is Lea Guccione. Why? Everyone thinks cancer is scary but this girl made it look easy because of her radiating hope and positive energy. I’m so lucky to call Gucci one of my best friends.” -Natalie Vala, Captain

“My dad is my hero because he has taught the most important way to overcome obstacles you may face is to stay true to yourself. He never comprises what she believes is right. I believe this is one of the strongest things a person can do, and he makes it look so easy! I am so grateful to have him as a role model and that he raised me to have the same sort of resiliency for myself.” -Taylor Hupp, Dancer

5 Days until Dance Marathon

Power. You are more powerful than you think. You have the power to make a difference and change a life. Over 24 years ago, a group of University of Florida students used their power to ignite a change that would forever shape the Gainesville community and lives forever. In 1995, Dance Marathon at the University of Florida started.

In this inaugural year, the small event raised over 12,000 dollars For The Kids. This total would continue to grow as the event gained more power and momentum. In 1996, over 23,000 dollars was raised; in 1997 over 57,000 dollars; and in 1998 over 75,000 dollars. A fire was ignited in the Gainesville community and Dance Marathon at UF would continue to surpass fundraising goals each year. In 1999 114, 511 dollars was raised and in 2000 158,603 dollars. For the next 13 years the totals would increase as Dance Marathon became more powerful and the message spread. Then, in 2013 a milestone was reached. Dance Marathon at the University of Florida raised a total of 1,169,772 dollars. Over 1.1 million miracles were made in a single year. How powerful is that?

Since 2013 the number has continued to steadily increase with no ceiling in sight. Last year, 2017, the event showed 2,724,324 as the final total for that year. There is power in numbers. Numbers that represent a development in research, education, and patient care.

As the final totals keep increasing, so does the number of those involved. As the number of those involved increases, so does the number of those educated about our mission. A positive ripple effect starts to make a change. A powerful change.

6 Days until Dance Marathon

First inspired to become a part of Dance Marathon through her sorority, Allie Burgunder, now a senior, is going to be participating in this year’s event as a four-year Dancer. While most of her friends chose to take on Captain positions in the years that followed, Allie decided to commit to a different path. Year after year, Allie dances through the 26.2 hours, determined to push beyond what she thought would be possible and redefine her limits.

Allie says hearing the Miracle Families tell each of their stories and getting to play with the Miracle Children is what keeps her going throughout the event.

“I see the same families come back each year because their child is still sick, and that’s what keeps me going,” Burgunder said. “As long as they are still fighting, I can still keep standing and dancing.”

One story she remembers vividly was of a Miracle Child who was now a Gator and getting the chance to participate as a dancer in her first Dance Marathon event.

“It was inspiring to see someone who had gone through all that she did as Miracle Child and now was back as a Dancer standing with all of us to raise money and awareness for people just like her.”

“It’s one day, it’s one weekend,” Burgunder said. “26.2 hours sounds crazy, but when you’re there and surrounded by so many people and everyone has so much life and  love it makes you forget about any pain or that you’ve been standing on your feet for hours. There’s so much support and everyone is going towards one common goal. The time just flies by and all of a sudden it’s over. You look back and are like ‘wow, it’s crazy I did that.’ But in reality when you think about it, that’s nothing compared to what all the Miracle Families are going through.”