February Mini Marathon Recap

The month of March has just begun and five high schools have already hosted their Mini Marathons for Dance Marathon at the University of Florida this year. 

A Mini Marathon event is run by a high school or middle school that participates in DM, with the help of each of our Marathon Relations teams. While Mini Marathon season plays a crucial role in contributing to our final fundraising total, it is the commitment of each school to share this organization’s cause in their community in the hopes of ending childhood illness that creates the biggest impact. Whether through attending a Hospitality Night, hanging out with a Miracle Child or posting on social media to collect donations, each participant is creating a positive impact on Dance Marathon at UF. 

In a recap of DM at UF’s February 2021 Mini season, five high schools have collectively raised over $76,500 For The Kids! Olympic Heights High School raised $8,253.79, Jupiter High School raised $18,400.74, Vanguard High School at $5,267.72, East Ridge High School with $7,407.36, and finally Seminole Ridge High School raised $37,268.78. 

Due to the pandemic, each of these events were held virtually, showing that despite the obstacles, each of these Mini Marathons were able to achieve amazing totals for UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. 

Marathon Relations (South) Captain Sophia Uribe felt that even through an unparalleled time like today, the message of DM at UF was felt in each and every Mini event. 

“I think the biggest takeaway is that no matter what platform the Mini is on, there are students that are still super passionate about the cause and are willing to spend a Friday or Saturday night to raise money For The Kids and for DM,” Uribe said. “They sit on Zoom for three hours just to hang out and fundraise. I think that really says a lot about how much they care and how impactful DM is at the high school level.” 

Vanguard High School’s Dance Marathon Overall Anissa Luciano acknowledged that even though planning fundraising events amidst the pandemic was a struggle, it allowed her and her team to get crafty and work together – resulting in raising even more money For The Kids than their previous year. 

“My committees and the people involved worked so hard the months leading up to the event and were so passionate about raising money for the Miracle Children,” Luciano said. “It really put into perspective how minuscule our modern day problems really are, and it made me appreciate the ability to connect with people in such a meaningful way.” 

Organizations such as DM at UF remind us of the influence we have in our communities. East Ridge High School Overall Kate Blythe reminisces, “It made me realize how important our childhood is in making us who we are today. I want these kids to have a chance to enjoy a great childhood too.”

As Mini Marathon season continues this spring, we share our sincerest thank you to all those involved at the high school level. Your impact can be seen in the day-to-day lives of our Miracle Children, in the research conducted to fight childhood illnesses and in the sense of hope you provide the Miracle Families. 

You are the future of Dance Marathon, and our future looks very bright. 

‘Tis the Mini Season!

As of today, only 48 days remain until Dance Marathon at the University of Florida 2021! The Main Event will look different than in years past, but we are more excited than ever to continue creating miracles. We are thrilled to announce that “Mini Season” has already begun! Each year, with the support of Dance Marathon at UF Marathon Relations Captains, Mini Marathons offer high schoolers the opportunity to participate in their own version of our 26.2-hour event. 

Twenty-four high schools around the state of Florida have the chance to participate in our Mini Marathon program each year. The students at these schools play a vital role in our movement before their college years even begin. The money they raise contributes to our final total that is revealed at the end of our 26.2 hours, all going directly to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. Last year, our Mini Marathon program raised a combined total of $626,314.23!

DM at UF’s Marathon Relations Captain Team consists of 46 members who are committed to bringing year-round energy and encouragement to high schools across the state as they plan and execute their own Dance Marathon event. Furthermore, our Mini Marathons provide a great opportunity for high school students to connect with our DM at UF Captains as they prepare for their own transition to college.

Vero Beach High School Senior Mary Bennett got involved with Dance Marathon as a freshman, and she hopes to continue her journey at UF in the fall. 

“Over the past four years, through the countless hours spent fundraising and hearing stories from UF Health Shands Miracle Children,” Bennett said, “I know I’ve found my passion.” We look forward to Vero Beach High School’s Mini Marathon on Mar. 19 as they contribute to our fight against pediatric illness.   

We are continuously inspired by the work put in by the incredible high schoolers that lead our Mini Marathons, and we can’t wait to see all that they accomplish this spring!

Miracles in Color 5K 2021 Recap

It was #TimeToUnite on Feb. 13 as we laced up our sneakers to embark on the Miracles in Color 5K as one unstoppable movement. Over 3.1 miles were walked for those who could not — For The Kids. 

All proceeds from Miracles in Color were donated to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, our local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. The course started at Flavet Field and ran through the University of Florida campus. At each color station, runners were doused in an array of vivid color. This year, DM at UF offered a virtual 5K option due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether people ran, walked or participated virtually, it all made a difference.

In all kinds of weather, we all stick together. For Victoria Leary, a Morale Captain, this rang true. Through rain and shine, the Dance Marathon at the University of Florida family prevailed.

Leary said Miracles in Color was a great way to finish off Spring Dancer Week and to get participants excited for this semester. Different shifts for runners helped to create efficiency and maintain a safe flow of people who could remain distanced, she said. 

“Miracles in Color was my favorite event from last year, so I was really excited for this year’s event,” Leary said. “Everyone did an amazing job pulling it off.”

The 5k was also a way for Captains, Emerging Leaders, Dancers and supporters to safely meet and interact with Miracle Families. Mateo H. has hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Before he was even born, doctors predicted that he had no chance of surviving. UF Shands Congenital Heart Center took a chance on Mateo. He has received two intense open-heart surgeries that prepared his body to live with only half a heart.

He is now a playful, smart, determined, soccer-loving little boy who enjoys hanging out with his older brother. Mateo’s family said he loved the Miracles in Color 5K.

“We thank you guys for doing these types of events for our kids,” Mateo’s mother said. “You guys push them to do amazing things.” 

Miracles in Color is more than just a 5K: It is an opportunity for the Dance Marathon community to tangibly see what it is working for and is reflective of DM at UF’s impact. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to visualize the Main Event, and it was inspirational.

“We feel so proud of him that he walked three miles,” Mateo’s mom said. “That is a tremendous milestone for him.” 

During the #TimeToUnite campaign, DM at UF will continue to advocate for change. It is time for us to show every child fighting at Shands that they have an entire army standing with them.

There are 52 days until the Main Event at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The Miracles in Color 5K was just the beginning of this year’s final push.

Last chance to register to dance!

 

It wouldn’t be Dance Marathon at the University of Florida without our Dancers. Hundreds of students participate every year in the Main Event to benefit the patients at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. They remain awake to support educational programs, such as Child Life Diversion therapy, and raise awareness for the children at Shands Children’s Hospital. By fundraising thousands of dollars every year, they fund the necessary supplies, equipment, educational resources and research that goes toward finding solutions for incurable diseases. 

From learning the Linedance to hearing stories from our inspiring Miracle Families, each Dancer plays an important role in our philanthropy. Partaking in the Main Event as a Dancer is an experience like no other, and while they participate throughout the entire event, they also work throughout the year to make Dance Marathon a reality. A few Dancers shared their reasons for registering, what makes the Dance Marathon community here at UF special and what the organization means to them: 

Julia Toledo

“I decided to join the organization because after my first year at UF, I saw how big Dance Marathon was, and I wanted to be a part of something that truly made an impact on the community around me. I joined as a Dancer as a way to become more involved and have a more personal experience.”

Macy Monsour

“I decided to be a Dancer because I wanted to be more involved and meet other people involved in Dance Marathon. In elementary school, I knew a kid who had cancer, and he battled it for 10 years before sadly passing away. Seeing him fight and all the struggles he went through inspired me to further help other kids with cancer.”

Amanda Fernandez 

“I became a Dancer for Dance Marathon because it is a small yet impactful thing I can do with my friends to help the children around us. I find these children to be inspiring and anything that I can do to aid them or their parents really warms my heart. I also love how we get to know the children, and being a Dancer would give me the opportunity to actually meet the children and see what a massive effect DM at UF had on these children and their lives.” 

While the Main Event will look different this year, we know one thing will remain the same: our Dancers will continue to make up an integral part of Dance Marathon. We couldn’t do what we do without them. With a little less than nine weeks until the Main Event, there is no better time to register to become a Dancer for DM at UF 2021. You can register as an individual or sign up with an Organization. 

We are making the Main Event more inclusive than ever before. This year, there will be two 13.1-hour shifts to make sure that we are taking every precaution possible to safely execute the event. To ensure that we accommodate all participants, Dancers can also attend Dance Marathon 2021 through the virtual experience option. If you are ready to join us in the fight to end childhood illness, you can register to be a Dancer for DM at UF here: https://events.dancemarathon.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=ticket.start&eventID=4327

Time To Unite

With a new year ahead of us, comes new challenges and new uncertainty. We have no idea what 2020 had in store for us and now it is time to discover what lies ahead of us for the year 2021. 

There are 61 days until Dance Marathon 2021. 61 days to come together as one movement and fight for a cause that means so much to all of us. 61 days to change a child’s life. 

Reilly is 5, and he’s been waiting for a heart transplant for 280 days. 280 days in the hospital, when he should’ve been playing with his friends and family instead. 280 days, in the middle of a pandemic, with many visitor restrictions in place. Reilly needs us to unite together for him and to show him that he is not waiting alone. We need to show him that every person involved in Dance Marathon is supporting him, whether we’re inside that hospital or not. 

We all have the power to change a child’s life, whether it’s by running in the Miracles in Color 5K, raising $5 by doing a random act of kindness for a friend, or dancing your heart out at the Main Event. 

By coming together we can alter the course of pediatric illness. Dance Marathon at UF has united year after year to bring hope to the children at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital and we will not stop until the day no child wears a hospital band.

There are many other children like Reilly down the road at Shands Children’s Hospital right now. We need to show these children that while they may be in a hospital room alone, we are fighting alongside them every day, as one united movement.

While each of us has the power to impact a child’s life, imagine how much more powerful we are when we unite together. We are all fighting for the same cause, and we can accomplish so much more united together than we can as individuals.

Let’s take this new year on together, as one movement. It is time to unite for not only Reilly but for all the children at Shands. It is our #TimeToUnite to show every child fighting at Shands that they have an entire army fighting behind them.

2020: A Year Like No Other

As a remarkably challenging year comes to a close, we at Dance Marathon at the University of Florida are reflecting on some of 2020’s most notable moments. Moments of struggle and adversity, and moments of joy and triumph. This year brought forth great uncertainty and hardship, but our fight persisted through it all. 

By the time March 28 was upon us, the world had already turned upside down. A pandemic hit, and the future was unknown for all. We faced a new challenge of holding a remote event for the first time. It meant no 26.2-hour uproar within the walls of the O’Connell Center, no strike of a gong for every $100 raised, and no dancing alongside our Miracle Children. Nonetheless, our purpose remained the same, and our passion grew stronger. In the face of adversity, DM at UF raised $2,526,418.24 for the families at UF Health Shands. 

October brought our first in-person event since the spring, and it introduced another opportunity to create miracles. Transform Today dared us to fundraise like never before and to create change in a matter of hours. We continued our fight against pediatric illness. Yet again, in a year when hope has been in short supply, DM at UF came together and raised over $578,000. 

This year, the word uncertainty took on a new meaning. The impact of COVID-19 has shown only a glance of what uncertainty truly means. A glance of the uncertainty and the fear that consumes our Miracle Children and Families each and every day. In a year like no other, 10,874 children were treated at or released from UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. When they needed it more than ever, the funds raised through our efforts went directly to research, patient care and medical equipment. 

As we wrap up 2020, we recognize and praise the devoted members of this organization who continue to pave the way for this movement and to redefine the impossible. Twenty-one Overall Directors, 56 Assistant Directors, 477 Captains, 160 Emerging Leaders, 135 Ambassadors and over 800 Dancers all committed to building a better tomorrow for the Children’s Miracle Network. We may play different roles in the day-to-day operations of this movement, but our sole purpose is all the same. We do what we do to fight for something much greater than ourselves. The kids are ALWAYS fighting, and DM at UF allows us to fight alongside them. 

We reflect on this year as a testament to our will to push through anything. When the going got rough, we hung onto our hope. Our Miracle Children embody that vision of hope. They are living proof that when we choose hope, we defy boundaries. 

We cannot be sure of what 2021 will bring, but we certainly look forward to continuing our efforts in the fight for the next generation. It is our time to fight harder than ever before. It is our time to make those tangible impacts on our campus and in our community. It is our time to show up in greater numbers with greater determination. We are needed in the now. It is #OurTimeNow.

UF vs. FSU: A Rivalry For The Kids

The University of Florida and Florida State University are age-old rivals on the football field, yet when it comes to making miracles For The Kids, we make an unstoppable team. 

The Dance Marathon programs at both UF and FSU raise funds to support UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital throughout the school year and during each school’s Main Event. The universities share Miracle Children as well! Alyssa, Ayden, Bailey, Bella, Donovan, Jude, Lauren, Nate, Oliver, Owen, Powie, and Sage are just a few of the reasons that unite our schools in creating a lasting impact.

In the 2019-2020 school year, Dance Marathon at UF and Dance Marathon at FSU were able to change the lives of the children at UF Health Shands by raising a combined $4,467,786.78. Of these funds, 48% went towards research, 42% went towards patient care and 10% went towards education. 

Furthermore, our efforts contribute to Shands’ status as the premier pediatric health center in Florida. In the latest 2020-2021 US News & World Report rankings, Shands ranked in the nation’s Top 50 in nine specialties, including ear, nose and throat, cancer, diabetes and endocrinology, pulmonology and lung surgery, and orthopaedics.

While there will be no rivalry football game between the two colleges this year, Dance Marathon at UF and Dance Marathon at FSU will be channeling our competitive spirits into a friendly fundraising competition. The only thing better than a rivalry, is a rivalry For The Kids. 

The competition between DM at UF and DM at FSU will begin Wednesday, Nov. 18 at noon and end Thursday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. The two schools will join together in our common cause, and we look forward to taking on DM at FSU this year!

Transform Today 2020

A sea of multicolored polos could be seen from corner to corner of our campus. The feeling is almost indescribable; an organization spanning all different majors, backgrounds and interests. An organization that provides hope to the students, the doctors at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital and most importantly, the Miracle Families. 

In 2019, we gathered on a Tuesday morning and began a 26.2-hour fundraising event that brought us closer to one another and to a cause we feel such a deep connection to, Dance Marathon. One year later, our world has been turned completely upside down. In a time of uncertainty, our cause has never been more clear. The children at Shands Children’s Hospital need our help more than ever, and Transform Today allows us to create change in a matter of hours. It encompasses a full day and more of sharing our organization’s message, raising money for our Miracle Children and bonding with our teams and organizations – all linked through Dance Marathon.

This year, Transform Today will feature just as much excitement as years past. The day begins with our Circle of Hope Opening Ceremony on the Reitz North Lawn at 8 a.m. Throughout the day, the North Lawn will be the central hub for all things Dance Marathon: Check-Ins, activities, food and of course DM at UF merchandise! Inside the Reitz, multiple rooms have been reserved – such as the Fundraising Room, the Dancer Experience Room and the Morale Spirit Room, where participants will have the ability to safely interact with Captains, Dancers, Ambassadors and more as they learn about the importance of our cause and this event. Later in the evening, the Be The Light event will be taking place at 7:30 p.m. on Norman Field. This is an amazing opportunity to hear from a Miracle Family and listen to their impactful story. Each of these events will also be live-streamed on DM at UF’s social media for those who wish to remain virtual and still participate in our Transform Today festivities. In addition, all of our in-person events will follow CDC and UF guidelines of remaining socially distant and requiring facial coverings to be worn. After the Total Reveal on Wednesday, our annual Moralloween event will be taking place on Flavet Field and virtually through Zoom Conference. 

Transform Today is more than a day of fundraising, it’s a movement. This event brings Miracle Families, Emerging Leaders, Captains and Dancers together in an unexplainable way. It only gives students a hint of the excitement of the Main Event. 

“Transform Today was my first experience where I truly felt the community of DM at UF,” Morale Captain Logan Foster said. “It was the time where I truly felt united as an organization and connected with our cause the greatest.”

It’s #OurTimeNow, and with the current state of the world, we are all looking for something to hold onto. A community to comfort us. A cause to keep us looking forward. That cause is Dance Marathon at the University of Florida. DM at UF is a family that always fights for the kids, and the fight is not over until no kid suffers from a childhood illness. 

To current Family Relations Captain Jenny Gilby, being a part of this organization is a heartwarming experience.

“To me, #OurTimeNow is the opportunity for us to empower each other despite the circumstances in which we are living to make a positive impact on the lives of sick and injured kids in our community,” she said. “We have the unique opportunity to come together and be a positive force for change and to support those who need it the most.”

On the eve of our 2020 Transform Today, we want to take a moment to remind ourselves of the impact our time, money and effort will have throughout these upcoming 26.2 hours. In years past, this event has brought us together to create change. In a year where the word “hope” seems to have faded in meaning to many, we as an organization and campus have been given the opportunity to provide tangible change for our Miracle Families. We stand up now, for a brighter future for children battling childhood illness. Transform Today shows us there is no time like the present. It’s #OurTimeNow. 

Register to dance!

Dance Marathon at the University of Florida started over 27 years ago by students inspired by the efforts of Children’s Miracle Network and the strength of the children battling life-threatening illnesses. This organization’s year-long efforts all culminate in the annual life-changing event where Miracle Children, families and students come together to fundraise, share stories, make lifelong friends and ultimately, dance – all for the kids at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.

Each year, over 800 Dancers gather in the O’Connell Center and begin their journey dancing on their feet. Dancers are able to hear the compelling stories told by the Miracle Children and their families at the event while experiencing the gratitude these children have for this organization. Standing for the Main Event gives Dancers the opportunity to put the minor inconveniences in their own lives in perspective and to appreciate the strength the Miracle Children exemplify every day. Being surrounded by students with the same passion and positive mindset inspires everyone to keep dancing, even in the last hours of the event. 

Thanks to the Morale Captains, Dancers are able to keep their spirits high throughout the entire weekend. Each Dancer is taught the Linedance at the beginning of the event. All of the Dancers come together every hour to perform it flash mob style! Themed hours allow Dancers to show off their creativity and personality – with no costume being too over the top. If the excitement of hundreds of students dancing together under one roof is not exciting enough, the late night hours at the event help create the most memorable moments for Dancers. The Rave and the Silent Disco are always highlights of the event and keep everyone awake and excited to dance through the night.

Students at UF fundraise to claim their spots as Dancers in the annual event. Because of the passion and determination of these Dancers, this event has been able to raise millions of dollars each year to support the patients at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. The hours are long and exhausting, but they help build a deep connection to both the mission of Children’s Miracle Network and the families who have courageously shared their stories. Being a Dancer is more than just the hours spent on your feet. It is being one of the faces in the crowd that shows the Miracle Children that we are here, and we are fighting for them.

Sarah, who has been a Dancer three years in a row, said she first registered to dance after hearing about the event from the older women in her Panhellenic chapter.

“They talked endlessly about how amazing it was and how much of an impact it had on so many people,” Sarah said. “I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Hearing the Miracle Families tell their stories was the most rewarding aspect, for it allowed her to see how grateful they are for everything this organization does for them, she said.

“Being a Dancer has changed me by putting my life into perspective,” Sarah said. “I think about inconveniences in my life, and I realize how small they are in comparison to these Miracle Families.”

Her biggest piece of advice to future Dancers: Stay positive – you get out what you put in!

The experiences that one gains as a Dancer follows you through your college years and shapes you into the person you aspire to be. Your efforts will impact the lives of so many children and will continue to create a better future for the ones who need it most. Register to dance today because it’s #OurTimeNow to fight harder than ever before.

Click here to register to dance for our 2021 Main Event: https://floridadm.org/dancers

#OurTimeNow

The world is constantly changing around us. We are all looking for something to hold onto. A community to comfort us. A cause to keep us looking forward.

Every individual within Dance Marathon at the University of Florida has his or her own story, yet we have all found hope in one mission. Our daily lives may look different, but our purpose remains the same.

We are relentless, and our fight does not end until no child wears a hospital band. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact has given us only a glimpse into the constant fear and uncertainty our Miracle Children and Families live in every day. The future is hazy, but our hope for a healthier and happier tomorrow is as clear as day.

For 26 years, students at UF have united time and time again to change the lives of the families at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. Every second, every minute, and every day counts. We have seen what can be accomplished in a matter of months. 

Dance Marathon at UF continues to redefine the impossible. We continue to break boundaries and create new ones. We continue to push our own limits. But there is still so much work to be done.

Most of us only have four years at this university. However, for the Miracle Children at Shands, their time is not promised. They only have the present. They only have now.

It is our time now to fight harder than ever before. To spread the word even farther about who we are and what we do. To make countless miracles in the face of adversity. To create a brighter future for the kids who need it most.

These are our teams, this is our organization, and this is our year. Nothing can take that away because it is OUR. TIME. NOW.