Every Little Donation Makes a Difference


One dollar.

It doesn’t seem like much. You could buy a piece of gum or a Blow Pop.

But $1 also buys a diaper for a baby born premature at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. 

Ten dollars buys a blood pressure cuff to monitor the vitals of a child who knows the walls of a hospital room better than the walls of his or her bedroom. 

Twelve dollars. A child gets a take-home art kit.

Fifteen dollars. A LEGO kit.

Every time a friend chooses to send a Venmo or a stranger drops a dollar bill into a bucket, the children who are right down Southwest Archer Road receive equipment that saves their lives or a toy that brings a smile to their face. Ask any parent, to see one’s child smile or hear his or her laughter – it’s priceless. 

If you ever think a small donation doesn’t count, think again. In this past year, 32% of donations were $15 or less. Moreover, that is 13,116 donations that were under $15 that made a difference in a child’s life.

We at Dance Marathon at the University of Florida adore big moments. The big reveal at the end of a grueling yet rewarding 26.2 hours. Seeing all the Miracle Children dressed up at Moralloween. Watching Morale Captains break into a Linedance. 

However, it is the little things that make the big moments memorable. Someone had to print out each individual numeral that spells out $2,526,418.24. Someone had to set up all of the booths, so a Miracle Child could go trick-or-treating. Someone had to mix the songs and sounds that hundreds of people dance to. 

So many “little” things go into a Miracle Child’s everyday life.

For Maxwell Williams, it’s tape – and a lot of it. Tape secures his PICC dressing in order to avoid infection. For Emily Monroe, it’s adhesive patches – every night. The patches protect Emily’s eyes while she sleeps. For Elie Chapman, it’s protein shakes – three times a day. The supplements maintain her energy and prevent hypoglycemia.

Elie’s mother said she never anticipated how much her family would grow to love Dance Marathon at UF. To her, the students are a part of her family.

 “As a nurse, I have seen children and their families directly impacted by the funds,” she said. “No matter how small the amount, they are seen in tangible ways.” 

For instance, donations big and small combined to fund the Arts in Medicine program, which helps Elie in times of stress while she is at Shands Children’s Hospital. This program engages patients in dance, writing, music, visual arts and contemplative arts in order to provide opportunities to deal with fear and strengthen the patient’s sense of control during a time of crisis.  

In the words of 12-year-old Elie Chapman, “A small amount could lead to big miracles.”

The Keys To Fundraising

Dance Marathon at UF is known throughout campus and the Gainesville community not just for the awareness we bring to the Children’s Miracle Network, but for the tremendous funds that we raise each and every year. In 2019, students came together and raised $3,230,025.23 all For The Kids being treated at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital!

As the most successful student-run philanthropy in the Southeast, we are so excited to provide tools and resources for those who share our passion for fundraising. Here’s a look into some of the most successful tactics for those who want to fundraise!

When jumping into your own personal fundraising, it is important to think of your own “Miracle Story” and pinpoint exactly what makes you passionate about this organization. Know your “why” and don’t be afraid to share what Dance Marathon means to you with the people you love. Whether it was a Miracle Child’s story or the feeling when you saw the grand total revealed at the event; something inspired your efforts to participate in this organization. 

Fundraising can be as simple as sending a text or email to friends and loved ones or offering to bring someone dinner for a donation. Know your audience and tailor your fundraising style toward them. If the holidays are coming up, offer to gift shop or gift wrap for someone. If it’s finals season, deliver coffee to friends in the library!

After receiving donations, show the personal impact that a person can have on this organization and the families we support. Donors want to see the tangible results their funds are contributing to. Sharing the accomplishments of our organization will show your donors where their funds are going and how they are improving thousands of lives in our local community. 

Remember, a simple “thank you” is the key to building everlasting relationships with your donors and showing them your ultimate gratitude for their support. Even if it is something they expect, it should by no means be overlooked. Here are personal ways to say thank you and show your supporters how much their contributions drive our organization’s success!

  • Send a handwritten “Thank You” letter
  • Send a personal text message upon immediate receipt of donation
  • Follow up by sharing pictures or videos of your experience
  • Post on social media recognizing your donors
  • Share updates on the health of our Miracle Children and experiences you enjoy with them

Mini Season has begun!

As of today, there are only 58 days left until Dance Marathon at UF 2020! While the countdown to March 28 is officially underway, ‘Mini Season’ has already begun! Every year, Mini Marathons give high schoolers the chance to participate in their own version of our 26.2-hour Event with the help of DM at UF Captains. 

Last year, 24 high schools participated in our Mini Marathon program. The money these schools raise contributes to our final total that is revealed at the end of our 26.2 hours, which all goes directly to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. Last year, these 24 Mini Marathon programs raised $600,082.84!

DM at UF’s Marathon Relations Captain Team is filled with 48 members who bring support and energy to high schools around the state by helping them plan and implement their own Mini Marathons. After being involved with Dance Marathon in high school, Rocco Abiusi joined the Marathon Relations team as a Captain this year. Abiusi said, “In high school I became completely inspired by the cause I was working with. When I came to UF I knew that I wanted to exhilarate future generations with the same hope of a better future that I was inspired by, and working with Marathon Relations allows me to do just that.” 

Third-year Marathon Relations Captain, Kylee Neeranjan, explains it best, “A Mini Marathon is an extension of all of the energy, passion, and determination that exists within DM at UF. These students, in the midst of studying for college entrance exams, applying to universities, and juggling various extracurriculars and athletics, take the time to connect their communities to our cause, meet Miracle Families and truly impact the future of childhood illness. Their dedication, commitment and motivation inspires me in my fight FTK every single day.” 

Last week we were amazed by the hard work and dedication of the students at Vanguard High School, who raised $5,262.67! This week, we are heading to East Ridge High School’s Mini Marathon, as they strive to make more miracles For The Kids!

Our Mini Marathons and the incredible high schoolers that lead them continue to inspire us every day, and we can’t wait to see all that our Minis accomplish this Spring! 

Three Teams, One Dream

Three Teams, One Dream. UF, FSU and FAU may have different team mascots and colors, but our three universities have one important thing in common, and that’s Dance Marathon. 

All three of our Dance Marathon programs raise funds to support UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital over the course of the school year and during each very special event. Our three schools also share eight Miracle Children! Nate, Powie, Ayden, Dani-Lynn, Bella, Sage, Jude and Oliver are a few of the reasons why we come together as one team. 

In the 2018-2019 school year, our schools raised a combined total of $5,688,060.86 for UF Health Shands. Of all that money raised, 42% goes to patient care, which includes necessities like patient gowns and helping fund the newly expanded pediatric infusion clinic where patients receive chemotherapy and other treatments. 48% of our funds also go to research in the hopes of finding solutions for incurable diseases like cystic fibrosis and cancer. 10% of the funds our schools raise goes to education, which includes the Child Life and Arts in Medicine programs that help children and families cope with the stress and anxiety of being in a hospital. These programs help children understand their illnesses but also provide them with support and distractions during medical procedures. 

Three Teams, One Dream takes place during the week of Thanksgiving to recognize our sincere gratitude that we have for every individual who supports our cause, from fundraisers and donors to the incredible doctors, nurses, researchers, and staff at UF Health Shands who make such amazing medical strides. UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital has been recognized as one of the best children’s hospitals in five specialty areas of cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, pulmonology, cancer, and neurology and neurosurgery for the 2019-2020 U.S. News & World Report rankings. 

We may be three separate teams, but we unite as one force for our one shared dream. We are proud to stand alongside these programs as we combine our efforts to help make UF Health Shands the premier pediatric health center in Florida.

Arden’s Miracle Story

Happy Miracle Monday! 

Today we want to share the story of one of our Miracle Children, Arden. We hope Arden’s story inspires you to face anything that lies ahead in your week with courage!

Arden was only 3 months old when doctors told her parents that she needed a heart transplant. Until her heart was ready, Arden and her family were sent to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital where she was put on a ventilator to help keep her alive. This life-saving machine Arden used was purchased with funds from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Arden finally received her heart transplant, but soon after, her doctors learned that she has a rare and progressive disease, Leigh’s Syndrome, a type of Mitochondrial Disease.

Because there is no cure for Leigh’s Syndrome, Arden and her family visit UF Health Shands frequently to monitor her progress and best treat any side effects she may have. Arden and her family have been able to see the direct impact that Dance Marathon and CMN have on the patients at UF Health Shands. The medical equipment used by Arden, and even the toys she played with in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, were all funded by Dance Marathon and CMN. From the ventilator that saved Arden’s life, to the toys she played with while she was healing, the money we raise as a campus helps children in every aspect of their lives. 

Arden continues to defy the odds of medical professionals. Through time in her therapy room, she has started to regain some of her strength, now being able to sit up straight by herself, with no support. Arden also just celebrated the 7th anniversary of receiving her new heart! At school, her classroom was covered in heart decorations and her classmates all wore matching heart t-shirts to celebrate Arden’s milestone. Her teacher even got a few heart-related gifts for her.

Arden’s previous Family Captain, Michaela, who spent many years with her and her family, expressed, “Arden shows us through her strength and resilience that limits and timelines don’t exist. She continues to push forward each and every day.”

Thank you for supporting children like Arden and helping them reach impossible milestones.


Transform Today & Moralloween

The feeling of Transform Today is like no other. Our entire campus and community came together for 26.2 hours: energized and determined to seize the day and make more miracles than ever before. Students gathered together across the Gainesville community in a sea of brightly colored Dance Marathon T-Shirts and polos sharing their passion for our cause with strangers. They canned, flyered, asked for even $1 and fought for the kids that fight every day. But, our brave Miracle Children at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital fought even harder spending Transform Today inspiring others and fundraising themselves to help lost loved ones and kids like them. Businesses around Gainesville also gave their time to support our cause. 

The day echoed the power of a united community. This year, our community came together to raise a total of $652,946.26, all For The Kids. 

We celebrated the end of Transform Today on Flavet Field last Wednesday. The open field became a Halloween celebration full of infectious smiles and incredible moments for our annual Moralloween. Families enjoyed Halloween games, haunted houses, face painting and a pumpkin patch. Miracle Children shined with joy as they showed off their creative costumes in the Miracle Child fashion show and collected their favorite candies at Halloween-themed booths set up by Organizations participating in Dance Marathon. 

Our Miracle Child Bailey expressed how happy she was to see her Dance Marathon friends dressed up as characters from her favorite movie series, “The Descendants.” However, she said her favorite part of Moralloween was collecting candy from every single booth. Meanwhile, Miss K, dressed as a UF Volleyball Player, enjoyed practicing her volleyball skills with old and new friends.

Another Miracle Child Bella, dressed as a princess. Stuffing her face with candy, she said, “My favorite part of Moralloween was dancing around with everyone and seeing the total amount raised on Transform Today.” 

The night concluded with an eruption of applause and excitement as the Transform Today fundraising total was revealed. But, the joy behind that number shows that our cause is about so much more. Inspiring events like Transform Today and Moralloween serve as reminders to enjoy every moment and spend time with those who inspire you, as we Rise As One toward a brighter tomorrow.

Adrienne’s Miracle Story

Happy Miracle Monday!

To start our miracle Monday series, we are sharing the story of one of our Miracle Children, Adrienne! 

Before Adrienne was even born, her doctors kept a watchful eye on her development. Her older brother was born with a heart defect, so they wanted to be sure that if she had it too, they would find it early on. But, despite their concern, Adrienne made her way into the world a healthy and happy baby girl. When she was about seven weeks old, things began to change. Adrienne got sick and despite medications and numerous doctor visits, she couldn’t get better. 

Adrienne was eventually diagnosed with Hydrocephalus and Arnold Chiari. In simpler terms, she has two conditions, one that causes fluid to accumulate in her brain and the other where her brain tissue extends into her spinal canal. In 2007, doctors placed a Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt in Adrienne, relieving the pressure on her brain. This was only a short-term fix, and after a few months, in 2008, she had another surgery. This surgery removed a small portion of her skull to release pressure from the brain stem, known as a Posterior Fossa Decompression. In 2010, Adrienne had a second Posterior Fossa Decompression surgery, and between these two procedures, she also had a mic-key feeding tube, put in. Adrienne now follows up with her neurosurgeon once a year for a routine MRI and for any other issues that may happen in between.

Although Adrienne has faced many hardships in her life, she has continued to live her life to its fullest. No matter what, you will always see her with a smile on her face. She lights up any room she walks into. 

Last weekend, Adrienne turned 13 years old! She celebrated with the Morale Team by spray painting the Norman Tunnel, something that has been on her bucket list. Adrienne is a great student and spends her free time in gymnastics class and on her middle school’s cheerleading team. 

Adrienne got involved with Dance Marathon a little over 5 years ago after meeting Nick, another Miracle Child, and his family. Over the years, she has grown so close with her Dance Marathon Family. You can find her jumping on stage at Dance Marathon events, making TikTok dances and running around with all of her favorite college friends. Adrienne is so inspired by Dance Marathon that one day she hopes to attend UF and be a member of the Morale Team. 

“I think it is so cool that these kids can aspire to be DM students,” said Adrienne’s mom. “They feel so loved and inspired by this movement, that they want to be able to take over those roles one day.” 

Tomorrow, we strive to impact and inspire more kids like Adrienne, during Transform Today, our annual 26.2-hour fundraising push day. Join us as we fight to create a brighter future For The Kids.

Where The Funds Go

As you walk through a hospital, you don’t usually picture dozens of balloons scattered through the rooms and hallways; yet at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, they are everywhere. The Children’s Miracle Network balloon icon is proudly plastered on equipment provided by CMN funds, and any member of the Dance Marathon at the University of Florida family can walk along and see the direct impact he or she is making at every turn. An unimaginable number of kids and families enter the doors of UF Health Shands every year. To provide the best care, the children’s hospital relies on donations and community support – this is where DM at UF steps in to fill the funding gaps and support the nonprofit’s mission to save and improve the lives of as many children as possible.

Every single dollar raised by DM at UF goes directly to UF Health Shands. These contributions manifest themselves in simplicities such as bandages and patient gowns, as well as life-saving machinery and hospital unit expansions. Because of the efforts of students who devote themselves to our cause, the positive impacts are limitless. With every cent donated, our doctors are more empowered to discover cures for diseases like cystic fibrosis, cancer, and diabetes. With every story shared, more individuals become aware of CMN’s mission and the actions taken to give every child a chance at childhood. This past year, we proved that when we #RiseAsOne, $3,230,025.23 miracles can be made. Here is a closer look at where those miracles specifically went:

  • Over $1 million has been devoted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit’s new supply of monitors that features non-invasive ventilation and wireless coverage transport monitors that document a patient’s levels while he or she moves around.
  • Approximately $200,000 went to the operating rooms’ addition of a computer console used to support patients in heart failure. This pump provides better blood flow to the rest of the body and is programmed to each patient’s specific needs.
  • Nearly $400,000 went to the Child Life Program, which aims to create a positive hospital environment and serves as a support system for children and their families. The Child Life Program provides therapy for children dealing with trauma and helps children understand their diagnoses, all through interactive play. 

So, in conclusion, if you are asking, “Where do the funds go?”

They go to the cot a terrified yet hopeful set of parents sleep on, so they can be there to hear their daughter laugh for the first time in the middle of the night.

They go to the laundry machines that save a mother’s sanity, so she can have the smallest comfort of clean clothes while she remains by her child’s side.

They go to the toy car that makes a boy smile despite fighting the battle for his life.

They go to the innovative machinery that saves a girl’s life when she wouldn’t have stood a chance without it.

The money you raise, the money your friends raise, the money every single person with a DM at UF logo on their shirt raises does not just go to research, education, and patient care. It goes far beyond that. It goes to giving every child, parent, and loved one the opportunity to regain some control of their life, the opportunity to achieve some, even if temporary, degree of happiness, and the opportunity to feel what everyone deserves to feel: hope. 

The “A → Z” Guide to Dancing

A- Ambition. Ambition is defined as a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work. As a Dancer, you symbolize ambition. Ambition drove you to take on this challenge of standing for 26.2 hours. You have the ambition to create miracles for the children at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital and to fight to end childhood illnesses.

B- Balloon. The balloon icon is a core element of the Children’s Miracle Network brand. Dance Marathon uses the balloon to represent our purpose of providing hope to our Miracle Families. This balloon appears on Dance Marathon merchandise, all over at the event, and on the equipment at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital that was funded by DM. When Miracle Families take the stage to speak, we raise our hands over our head in the shape of a balloon, to show our respect and gratitude to them.

C- Caffeine Free. Although you will need lots of energy to dance for 26.2 hours, Dancers cannot consume caffeine at the event. But there will be plenty of excitement at the O’Dome to keep you going!

D- Dancer Walk. Dancers are able to go through different stations, from foot rubs to walking through rice, to motivate them for the final few hours. For DM’s 25th year, the Dancer Walk will be new and even more exciting for Dancers!

E- Exercise. What better way to exercise than dancing For The Kids?! If you need a break from dancing, you can still get your exercise in by participating in yoga!

F- FTK. FTK means For The Kids. Everything we do all year long and for those 26.2 hours, we do For The Kids. When it’s hour 20 and your legs are sore and all you want to do is sit, remind yourself that you are dancing FTK!

G- Gong. During the Dance Marathon event, every time you raise $100 you get to hit the Gong! The crowd will erupt with cheers, and your efforts will encourage everyone to keep fundraising throughout the event.

H- Headbands. For every $250, $500, and $750 you raise during the event, you’ll get the chance to go on stage and get headbanded by a Miracle Child! Raising money and getting to interact with the amazing miracle children? It doesn’t get any better!

I- Inspiration. Dancing at DM is a once in a lifetime experience full of love and inspiration. Hearing the miracle stories and spending time with all the Miracle Families will truly remind you of who and what you are fighting for. It is amazing to see everyone’s hard work from the year pay off as we come together for this inspiring cause.

J- (DM) Jail. DM jail is a fun way to raise money during the event. You can donate money to put your friends in “jail” and they have to raise a certain amount of money to get out!

K- Kids. This is who we are here for! The O’Dome is such a bright and happy environment as the Miracle Children run around with the biggest smiles. Make sure to spend some time with the Miracle Families and learn about their incredible journeys.

L- Linedance. Each hour, the Morale team leads all the Dancers in a super fun Linedance! Get ready to grab your best friend and dance FTK!

M- Miracle Story. Throughout the event, Miracle Children and their families will get up on stage to share their incredibly inspiring stories. DM can be super fun and wild, but Miracle Stories remind everyone of our purpose to create more miracles and end childhood illness.

N- No sleep. The purpose of DM is to stay awake and on your feet for 26.2 hours! While this may sound daunting, the Morale Captains will keep you excited throughout the event, and the Miracle Families will remind you why you’re dancing. There are TONS of fun activities to keep you going!

O- O’Dome. This is where the magic happens. Hundreds of students, children, and families, all with one purpose. To fight against childhood illness.

P- Piggy-back rides. Don’t fret, you won’t have to be on your feet the entire time! Buddies will happily give you a piggyback ride to give you a quick break before you keep on dancing!

Q- Quality time. Memories with friends and new faces that you’ll never forget. Moments spent with the Miracle Children and their families that you’ll hold onto forever.

R- Rave. Get ready to dress in neon and dance the night away with an incredible full-set performance by our favorite DJ! As the base drops at midnight, you won’t want to miss it!

S- Swim & Shower Package. Swim like a pro in the UF Swim Team’s pool, or refresh with a quick shower! Either option will rejuvenate you to get back on the dance floor! 

T- Theme Hours. Put on your craziest outfits to experience the most outrageous themes! Whether it’s DisneyLand Hour or Night on the Safari, come prepared for theme-inspired games and photo-ops!

U- Unique. There is truly no other experience like dancing for 26.2 hours For The Kids. You will forever cherish the memories that you make while dancing. The enthusiasm and love that fills the O’Dome for those 26.2 hours is indescribable – enjoy every second while it lasts.

V- Video games. All your favorite video games will be available for you to play at the event, and they sure do help pass the time! It’s the perfect way to pass the time when you’re getting tired. There are a variety of games to choose from, so get ready! Time flies when you’re playing the games.

W- Wall of Fame- If you raise $2400 or more, you earn a spot on the Wall of Fame. The event is the perfect time to show potential donors how motivated and excited you are to be dancing For The Kids. As the donations keep coming in, you’ll get closer to gaining a spot on the Wall!

X- X-box. Take a break from dancing to play some X-Box! Pass some time by playing your favorite video game – you may even get to play with some of the Miracle Children!

Y- Year 25. This year, Dance Marathon at UF is celebrating its 25th year. With this milestone, we celebrate how many miracles DM at UF has made in the past, and we focus on how many miracles we strive to make in the future. You, as a Dancer, are making such an impact on this important year. Get excited to take part in this monumental year for DM!

Z- Zzzzzz. Z stands for all those Zzz’s you’ll get once the 26.2 hours are up! Before you know it, you will be jumping into your bed for a much needed rest. Let your body relax, you deserve it!


Home for the Holidays

Finals are complete, grades are in, “goodbyes” have been said and we have arrived home to spend a long awaited winter break with our families and friends. While we settle in, we must remember that many of the children at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital will spend the holidays inside the hospital walls as they continue to battle their health. Kids like Ayden, Bailey and Wyatt cannot simply take a break from their medical issues as we do from school. We must remember that even though we are not in Gainesville, these children will carry on with routine hospital check-ups and treatments throughout the holiday season.

As we spend time with our families and take part in holiday festivities, we must keep this in mind and continue to advocate and fundraise For the Kids during this season of miracles. The holiday season is a special time that reminds us of our blessings and the gift of giving. One of our most impactful elements is that we have the opportunity and the power to continuously change the lives of our Miracle Families. This break is the perfect time to spread our cause to friends and family in our hometowns. We must remember that the children at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. While we may be farther away from Gainesville, this cause is still as close as ever.

For many children there is no greater gift they could receive than that of good health. With every penny you fundraise, you are able to grant this gift to so many children. This holiday season, we would like to celebrate and thank you with some gifts of our own! Stay tuned for the exciting fundraising incentive gifts we have in store for you while you are #HomeForTheHolidays. In honor of our 100 day countdown, we challenge you to raise $100 from now until December 31st to make this season brighter for every child who spends their holidays in the hospital. Make sure to check out the t-shirt on our Instagram story that anyone who raises $100 will receive!