Written By: Karina Wilson
March may have come and gone, but the miracles continue to roll in.
Dance Marathon at the University of Florida’s devotion reaches farther than the city of Gainesville. The army that fights for UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network is not just college students. High school students unite too.
In March, Vero Beach, The Villages, Saint Andrew’s, Palm Beach Central, Leesburg, Forest, Buchholz, Eastside, Gainesville, Belleview, Boca Raton and Wellington High School all held Mini Dance Marathons!
Mini Marathon Season is Gabbi Thaw’s, a Marathon Relations Captain, favorite season of the year.
“What makes Mini Season so meaningful is being able to work alongside people who bring so much passion and love to the team,” Thaw said.
At the beginning of the year, the Marathon Relations Team had no clue what virtual Mini Marathons would look like, she said. However, it has evolved to be Thaw’s favorite part of 2021.
“It’s so fun being together over Zoom and dancing virtually with the high schoolers,” she said. “Even though we may be virtual, there’s no other people I’d rather dance with, inspire with and come together with than MR.”
She said Marathon Relations has brought out the best in her because she has the opportunity to bring out the best in the high schoolers. One of those students is Gabriela Mantilla, a senior at Boca Raton High School.
“The event this year despite all the challenges of it being online was so amazing,” Mantilla said. “It was so great to see Kinsey and get to rave with her while raising money for Shands.”
Kinsey B. is a Miracle Child who was diagnosed with Atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (AHUS), which is now believed to be a different complement disorder. Since her initial diagnosis, Kinsey has been diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder, Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) and several learning disabilities.
But Kinsey is one of a kind, and childhood illness does not stop her. Dance Marathon at UF participants know her from her smile, dance moves and the love and positivity she radiates.
“The energy was so high throughout the entire event,” Mantilla said. “There was dancing and games, overall the spirit and morale was so high throughout the night.”
The senior has been a part of the DM at UF family since her sophomore year of high school. In 2020, Mantilla was a chair for Boca Raton’s Mini Marathon. She plans to continue her efforts when she attends UF in the fall.
“My biggest takeaway is that it’s all For The Kids,” she said. “These kids go through so much, yet they maintain high spirits and amazing energy.”
Boca Raton High School raised over $16,000 for the children at Shands.
“Each and every Miracle Child inspires me every day,” Mantilla said. “I’m so glad to be able to hangout with them at DM while raising money for Shands.”
Mini Marathons and Kirstyn’s Krew, a program that honors Kirstyn Tripp – our Miracle Child who lost her battle to childhood illness in 2018, help to spread awareness. Marsha Tripp, Kirstyn’s mother, greatly appreciates the Mini Marathons.
“I just think the Minis are so important because those high schoolers are the future of Dance Marathon going forward.”
With only one week until DM at UF’s Main Event, now more than ever, it’s the Dance Marathon community’s #TimeToUnite.
It’s #OurTimeNow to leave a #LegacyOfHope.
March Mini Marathon totals:
- Vero Beach: $13,207.93
- The Villages: $7,416.79
- Saint Andrew’s: $19,134.69
- Palm Beach Central: $37,075.09
- Leesburg: $1,153.63
- Forest: $29,211.97
- Buchholz, Eastside and Gainesville: $6,776.75
- Belleview: $17,123.62
- Boca Raton: $16,004.77
- Wellington: $27,100.69