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!

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 floridadm.org/tickets 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 floridadm.org/dancers 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!