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


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.

Why Join Dance Marathon?

You’ve probably seen the mass of students in polos clustered around Turlington. If you’re reading this, you must’ve wondered what could possibly unite hundreds of college students to gather in the heart of campus every week. What do all of the colored shirts represent? What led them to join Dance Marathon at the University of Florida?

Dani, a 2019 Emerging Leader and 2020 Dancer Relations Captain, first heard about DM through a presentation at Preview. She applied for the Emerging Leader Program without knowing a single other person in the organization. It was one of the best decisions she said she has made during her time at UF.

“DM has the most incredible people on UF’s campus,” Dani said. “Through my Captain team, I have been introduced to some of the most genuine and empathetic people I’ve ever met. Beyond my team, whether it be Dancers, ELPs, Captains or even the Miracle Children, I am constantly amazed by the kindness and positivity of the people I meet through DM.”

DM is one of UF’s largest organizations. Thus, there is a role for anyone and everyone to play! Whether you are passionate about Public Relations, Finance, Hospitality or Multimedia, you have the opportunity to apply your talents to any of our 16 Captain Teams. Furthermore, you get to make a tangible impact on your campus, community and children fighting for a chance at life.

Other ways to get involved include being an Emerging Leader, a Dancer or an Ambassador.

Some students participate because they themselves were treated at a children’s hospital. Others know a friend or a family member who has had an experience at a hospital. They’ve seen first-hand the impact that donations can have on the kids and families treated by a local CMN Hospital. 

Harrison, a 2019 Dancer and 2020 Ambassador, immediately saw people wearing DM shirts and apparel when he first came to UF. His Organization first explained what Dance Marathon is and what it represents. He felt that not many of his current brothers were involved within DM, and change needed to happen. Being a Dancer his freshman year was the final push he needed to become an Ambassador for Dance Marathon at his Organization. 

“This was one of the best decisions I’ve made at my time at the University of Florida,” Harrison said. “Dance Marathon is not just about what you do here at UF, or the actual 26.2 hour event, but it’s a way of life. Joining Dance Marathon will impact you for years to come.”

Emily, a 2018 Public Relations Overall and 2019 Family Relations Captain, understands the lasting impression and life-changing effect DM can have. It was her time visiting Miracle Children in the hospital where she was able to witness the ways that nurses have the ability to directly impact children and their families. 

This inspired her to pursue a career in nursing. Today, each time she enters her Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, she is reminded of some of her favorite little heart heroes, like Bailey A., Kendall L. and Bella N., who give her the push to provide her patients with the best care.

“Having the chance to form relationships with different families that have benefited from the care at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital turned out to be a pivotal chapter in my life and career path,” Emily said.

At DM events, Miracle Children are treated like rock stars. From a Hospitality Night at PDQ to our Color Run 5k to our Main Event, these children get to be seen as a kid first and their conditions or treatments second.

However, we need students like you to ensure that these children get to keep experiencing these unforgettable moments of joy and innocence. 

No matter which position you are drawn to, DM introduces you to people with the same passion for helping people and provides you with lasting friendships. Members of DM are able to connect with their college and feel proud of what its students are striving for. 

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.