United for Celebration

Written By: Leah Grobman

On a Wednesday afternoon, as students walked to class, picked up lunch and the Century Tower bell rang, Turlington Plaza transformed into Miracle Child Kinsey’s birthday party. Being at the heart of campus, there is no better place to celebrate a heart that beats so passionately for every member who is a part of Dance Marathon at the University of Florida.

While the normal school day rush hour was in full gear, this particular afternoon called for a bit more excitement than usual. The air buzzed with enthusiasm as the DM check-in area prepared for the party. New merchandise piled on top of tables, a wall of heart-shaped birthday notes layed upright for all to see and add to, and people began to crowd together. New and old members alike were even joined by others not affiliated with our organization to partake in the celebration; it seemed as if the entire study body was here to celebrate Kinsey.

Donning her birthday crown, sash and balloon wand, Kinsey beamed as she entered the plaza and soaked in her special setup. Everybody in attendance cheered upon her arrival, and old friends made throughout her time involved in DM rushed forward to greet her.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the afternoon was when Kinsey’s buddy, Rachel Nattis, gave her a heartwarming gift. The birthday girl opened up her colorful gift bag to see a homemade picture collage of the two girls in matching “besties” T-shirts and a Target gift card. The pure joy that radiated off of her was contagious.

Nattis, a sophomore Family Relations Captain, is thrilled for the year to come.

“I personally cannot wait to make such amazing memories with Kinsey this year,” she said. “I‘m literally so excited to go to every single event with her, especially Kinsey’s all time favorite one: Moralloween.”

She also mentioned that while Kinsey had a full day of birthday plans ahead, including going to her favorite restaurant — Olive Garden — and staying with her family at a nearby river cabin, she was most looking forward to her party at Dance Marathon check-ins. She even had been counting down the minutes to it for days prior. Another highlight of the afternoon was the Morale Team’s performance of the 2021 Line Dance, as many individuals giddily joined in to revisit the choreography.

To Ryan Beany, a junior Morale Captain, DM has made his time in college more enjoyable and himself more confident. Today, he just wants to help another have the same positive experience.

“Dance Marathon is like the heart that pumps my blood,” he said. “As a second-year Morale Captain, I am so excited to change so many students’ lives.”

To capture it all, the Multimedia Team played a major role in creating beautiful mementos to remember the day forever. Rachel Friedman, a senior Multimedia Captain, embraced a full circle moment as she celebrated Kinsey and memorialized the scene.

“Our motto is to capture miracles,” she said. “It’s really great to be here as a videographer because this is a great moment to remember forever — and a miracle to capture.”

One of the most remarkable parts of the afternoon, and of DM at UF as a whole, was the way in which every person involved, regardless of his or her role, played such a crucial part in making each moment so special.

In the words of Kinsey, “I don’t even know which part of this is my favorite! There’s just so much to love!”

Wherever We Go

Written By: Hope Hathcock

Summer break is a time to refresh. To look forward to the future. Without a second thought, we make plans, not recognizing that the ability to map out our upcoming days is a blessing. The opportunity to relax is a luxury we often take for granted. While we are learning at an internship, tanning at the beach or hiking a mountain, there are still countless children in Shands Children’s Hospital who need medical treatment — and need it now.

Leukemia does not pause for the pool.

Heart defects do not halt for a trip to the city.

Mitochondrial disease does not stop for going home to your loved ones.

#WhereverWeGo this summer, we must pack our passion with us because Dance Marathon at the University of Florida is a part of all of us, and illness never takes a vacation.

Families need our help year-round, not just when we feel motivated by our classes or by our peers. We, the students at UF, define Dance Marathon. Every single member makes up the heart of this organization. Thus, we have the power to share our mission with others. We can use these weeks as an opportunity to introduce people to DM who would not normally have exposure to our cause while we are away at college. We do not need to be in Gainesville or be at the Main Event or be working during Transform Today to change lives and to make a difference for the patients fighting their hardest every day at Shands.

As Captains, Dancers, Managers and Overalls become alumni, the memories of Miracle Children stay with them, Wherever They Go.

Wherever You Go this summer, keep these boys and girls’ battles in your mind.

Wherever We Go, from Gainesville, throughout Florida, across the country and beyond, we must keep the handprints of the children at Shands on our hearts, for if not for us, who else?

Dancer’s Main Event Survival Guide

Written By: Molly Metcalf

Our Main Event is TOMORROW and everyone involved in Dance Marathon at the University of Florida is bursting with excitement! Each year around this time, we look to Dancers to get the energy pumping and ring in the big day. Our Dancers experience one of Dance Marathon at UF’s most adored traditions, and they always exceed our expectations!

Throughout the duration of the Main Event, Dancers will learn our Linedance, eat delicious food provided by our Hospitality Captain Team and hear inspiring stories from our Miracle Families. But before all of that, we want to give our Dancers an official Survival Guide for the Main Event. 

  • Keep up the fundraising work and bring it home! There is nothing like celebrating all your hard work from the year during the Main Event. 
  • Get a good night’s sleep. We can’t wait to see you all energized for DM 2021! Make sure to turn the lights out early, so you are ready for the long hours ahead. 
  • Pack all the necessities. Don’t forget to grab the essentials – comfortable shoes and extra socks, a reusable water bottle, a phone charger, toiletries, extra clothes and some snacks!
  • Save some extra time the morning of. You definitely do not want to miss the special Opening Ceremony! Be sure to arrive on time, get checked in and get hyped up before the day starts. 
  • Have fun and remember your why. The Main Event is the culmination of our hard work all year long. It is meant to be a celebration, but it can also be emotional and exhausting. Make sure to have fun! Most importantly, remember why you have dedicated time to this organization to raise money for the Miracle Children at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. 

DM at UF would not be what we are without our Dancers. Dancers are the backbone of our organization and the heart of this movement at large. They are the bodies down on the Floor and spread throughout the O’Connell Center and the smiling faces in the socially distant crowd. Dancers are the love and the liveliness. The Main Event will look different this year, but we know Dancers will continue to make up an integral part of DM at UF.

March Mini Marathons Recap


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

2021 Theme Hours Reveal

Written By: Olivia deMontmorency

2021 Theme Hours Reveal 

Each Dance Marathon sets itself apart from the last. Whether it is the Silent Disco, the Miracle Family stories or the Theme Hours. As our Dance Marathon at the University of Florida Main Event nears, we recognize the activities that make our event so electric and are thrilled to reveal our Dance Marathon at UF 2021 Theme Hours! This year, Theme Hours will take place in person as well as virtually, giving participants the ability to participate in whichever option they are most comfortable with. 

Grease vs. Greece (Orange Shift)

It’s a mix between your favorite ’70s musical romance starring Sandy and Danny combined with the mystical tales of Greek mythology. This first Theme Hour will include activities such as hand jive lessons, karaoke, toilet paper toga and pin the eye on the cyclops. Virtually, Grease vs. Greece participants will engage in a scavenger hunt, Zoom Olympics and trivia. 

Survivor: DM Island (Orange Shift)

Just like the television show, the Survivor: DM Island Theme Hour will test castaways – or Dancers – through a series of challenges, but no one’s getting kicked off the island on this episode. Activities for Survivor: DM Island will include kan jam, trash can/stone toss, socially distanced four corners and charades. The 2021 Linedance will also be taught throughout this hour by our very own Morale Team! Over Zoom, Dancers have the opportunity to make homemade crafts, participate in a Kahoot on survival and camping, as well as write letters to the DM at UF Miracle Families. 

Out of the Page (Orange Shift)

The pages of your favorite storybooks come to life in the Out of the Page Theme Hour. While a live band plays throughout the hour, Dancers will take part in pictionary, name that tune, charades and an exciting game of Quidditch. Virtual engagement offers a Harry Potter House quiz and a Hunger Games District quiz, to find out where your personality falls in the world of wizards and Katniss Everdeen. Let your inner book-nerd thrive in this hour of our favorite story fandoms. 

Miracles on Broadway (Blue Shift)

Time for every Dancer’s big break! Miracles on Broadway is a Theme Hour full of singing, acting, dancing and more. Get in on the act with activities such as a Broadway singalong, decorating your own playbill, karaoke, a rap battle and freeze dance. If you’re participating virtually, don’t worry about missing out on the excitement. Engage in Broadway song requests, bingo, Just Dance, flashlight singing and song trivia. Break a leg!

DM Games (Blue Shift)

It’s game time and with DM at UF, everyone’s a winner. This Theme Hour isn’t just for the sports lovers! In DM Games, Dancers partake in a wide range of challenges like giant rock paper scissors, table tennis, foam bowling, soccer and four corners. Put your gaming to the test with virtual Kahoot, Among Us, Game Pigeon and hangman. 

SS DM (Blue Shift)

All aboard the SS DM in the last Theme Hour! Join the steamship headed to the Final Total Reveal while participating in Family Feud, a limbo contest, Hula-Hoop contest, Among Us and a Game Pigeon tournament. Dancers who spend this last hour online have the option to play Among Us, Game Pigeon and go through a virtual escape room. See you on the sea! 

Hosted by the Morale Team, these Theme Hours are sure to bring even more anticipation to what will be such an impactful event. DM at UF is only days away, and we cannot wait to experience everything that makes these 26.2 hours so incredible. 

Child Life’s Legacy

Written By: Hannah Engel

This March, it is Our Time Now to come together to make a difference for the Miracle Families and to give hope to every child at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. In order to do so, Dance Marathon at the University of Florida helps fund the Child Life program at Shands Children’s Hospital. Child Life is a meaningful program that was established to help children and families cope with the stress and anxiety of hospitalization. It supplies services such as games, arts and crafts, calming treatments and so much more while aiming to make hospital visits less scary and more fun. 

The Child Life program has greatly impacted our Miracle Children and their families. Kinsey began her journey at Shands in 2004. As the years have passed, Child Life has been there to provide Kinsey and her family with support and activities to help make her time in treatment easier. 

“Sarah, an artist in residence for Arts in Medicine at Shands, has helped Kinsey pass the time and forget about her medical issues while in dialysis and as an in-patient,” said Kinsey’s mother Holly Bogart. “She has fostered a love for art in Kinsey that will last forever.” 

Child Life will continue to be there for Kinsey as well as all the other Miracle Children throughout their time at Shands. 

As we focus on leaving our Legacy of Hope this month, think about the times when you were scared of the unknown. Maybe you were scared of a test score, submitting a job application or even the dark. That feeling is what these children experience every day of their lives. Child Life is there to help them feel comfortable while facing the unknown. 

Pledge to make your impact and fight for these children at our local hospital. The money you raise will directly impact the Child Life program by funding supplies they need to make a child’s stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. 

Click here to make your pledge to fundraise in honor of Child Life.

Their Time Then

Written By: Hannah Bobek

Dance Marathon at the University of Florida and its participants are always learning and improving upon our organization because of our Alumni. Without them, we would have no one to look to for the future of our philanthropy. When someone participates in Dance Marathon at UF, he or she is forever a part of this organization and the DM at UF community. It is not only current participants who spread awareness about DM at UF but also our Alumni who play an integral role in the organization each and every day.

Arielle Darvin was involved in DM at UF from 2012 to 2016. During the first three years of her involvement in the organization, she was a Dancer and a Morale Captain. She became the Morale Overall for DM at UF in 2016 during her senior year. Below, she shares her experience with Dance Marathon, the meaningful impact it had on her life and the legacy she left on the organization:

“It is really difficult to discuss the person I am today or the trajectory my career path took without mentioning DM at UF; it really played a defining role in shaping my character and molding the way I interact with the families and children I work with. 

I truly desire to know and connect with families of children with disabilities and chronic health conditions – to really know their stories is what I strive for. I think this stems from my experiences with Dance Marathon, getting to know the Miracle Children and listening to families share their stories at events. Listening to Miracle Families express the impact that Dance Marathon and healthcare professionals profoundly had on their lives is the primary reason I decided to go into healthcare.

 Now, I work as a pediatric audiologist at a Children’s Miracle Network hospital, where I know the “Morale Overall” in me shines through every day. A wise Morale Captain of mine once said they would go above and beyond to bring Dance Marathon inspiration to those near and far in their life because it not only brought them joy, but because ‘the kids we play for can never have a big enough team.’ Dance Marathon at UF will always live in me, and I will forever be a part of this team.”

DM at UF has raised more than $24 million dollars for UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital since its inception at the university in 1995. We would not have been able to achieve this without those who have come before us and paved the way for the future of our philanthropy. Their donations, efforts and support of our organization are only a few of the reasons that Dance Marathon continues to be a success at the University of Florida. 

In 2020 alone, our DM at UF Alumni collectively raised more than $82,000, and they continue to show their dedication to the organization to this day. We would not have become the most successful student-run philanthropy in the southeastern United States if it were not for the commitment of our Alumni. And while we may be DM at UF, our network of devoted, loyal Alumni spans all across the country. 

Dance Marathon Alumni formed as an official group in 2013 and has been going strong ever since. If you participated in Dance Marathon at UF in the past, you can become part of this group by signing up for a miracle or a legacy membership. Click the link here to renew your membership to join the Dance Marathon Alumni: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSebLvFrPQs3axz_5di7SBFW34eIFwmSTCf_AxfjTYcCSTQpiA/viewform

February Mini Marathons Recap

Written By: Olivia deMontmorency

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!

Written By: Molly Metcalf

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

Written By: Karina Wilson

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.