Choose Change

Written By: Hope Hathcock

Every choice you have made in your entire life has led you to exactly where you are in this second, reading these words.

Choices have the capacity to lead you down a new path, yet they also have the power to unite you with the overlapping journeys of others. How hopeful is it that you are connected to a community of individuals who all chose to attend the University of Florida and chose to join the family that is Dance Marathon at the University of Florida? This organization is asking you to make one more choice together: Choose Change.

Life can change in an instant. With one hospital visit, one scan and one diagnosis, an entire family’s everyday life changes. Normal changes.

However, we at DM at UF possess the gift of change, for we have the ability to alter someone’s life for the better. The power of passionate, positive change should not be underestimated nor taken for granted.

Do not hesitate or put your plans off for another day because Kids Can’t Wait. Every minute that passes by is one we can’t get back. Every minute, 62 children enter a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Every minute, we have the potential to change 62 lives. But we have to choose to act. We have to make the decision to put ourselves, our free time and our distractions second, and put these children first.

In the end, the Netflix episode you binge-watched won’t matter. You won’t remember that time you took a nap on the couch. Nothing will come from the hours you spent scrolling on social media. 

We create a ripple effect of transformation when we choose to act for a cause bigger than ourselves. These outcomes stretch beyond our years in college. You may never know what will come of the $20 bill a kind stranger dropped into your fundraising bucket. But its potential is endless, and there is beauty in the infinite possibilities that come from you choosing to devote your time and attention to the smallest of patients sitting in a hospital room at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. 

What will change from a choice you make? It’s impossible to know precisely.

But what can change from the choice to dedicate yourself to DM at UF? Everything.

Leading a New Legacy: The First Fall Kickoff Event

Written By: Ashley Hearn

As people flowed onto Flavet Field, the energy swelled, and with more people came more passion. Not even a mask could hide the evidence of radiant smiles. There was so much to do, so many people to meet. It was the first Fall Kickoff Event, and it was the perfect way to start the Dance Marathon at the University of Florida 2021-2022 year.

In the past, Transform Today has fostered a sense of excitement for the year ahead. This year, that feeling arrived early. With so many restrictions and plans up in the air throughout the past year, the chance to finally gather all together as an organization was highly anticipated.

“This is a dream come true for the entire Overall Team,” said Productions Overall Director Sofi Miret. “To see this actually happen is unreal.” 

The evening was an opportunity unlike any offered in the past — an event purely focused on togetherness.

“We wanted an event after Captains, ELPs and Ambassadors were chosen, but right before Transform Today to bond everyone,” Miret said. 

The first annual Fall Kickoff event delivered live music from local bands, appearances from Miracle Families and food from two vendors. The event’s packed agenda transformed Flavet Field into a space for celebration of the year to come. 

Throughout the night, Miracle Children swayed to the beat of the music, and made for the perfect backup dancers. They first accompanied a local Gainesville band, The Late Night Losers. After performing at last years Main Event, many people were enthusiastic about the bands return. Following this performance, another local band, Glass House Point, made their Dance Marathon at UF debut. 

In between the acts, many satisfied their hunger by visiting the Hospitality Team tent where Assistant Directors served dozens of pizzas donated by Domino’s. After a savory slice, a sea of people joined the winding B’z Gelati line to purchase a refreshing ice cream-gelato treat.

Over good food and even better conversation, relationships flourished. Emerging Leaders met their Units, Family Relations Captains united with their Miracle Families and Miracle Children performed their talents. It was a memorable day of firsts.

To Carley Smith, a Family Relations Assistant Director, the Fall Kickoff was especially meaningful. 

“This event was created to introduce the entire Dance Marathon community to the families, and to each other and just to the purpose of what DM is all about,” she said.

The lines to indulge in B’z Gelati and Domino’s never truly died down. On stage, the bands moved the crowd to its feet. Cheers erupted throughout the event as the Merchandise Team successfully sold out items from the Kids Collection drop. The atmosphere was electric. 

While we had the opportunity to enjoy food, live music and the presence of each other, we must remember that this is a luxury. We got the chance to interact and embrace the moment, a chance that we often take for granted. 

The Fall Kickoff was a time to connect with the cause and with the people fighting for it, and we will use this unity as momentum as we inch closer to Transform Today on Oct. 26 – 27 — and as the year continues. 
If anything, the first Fall Kickoff Event can be best represented by the very children DM at UF will continue to fight for. Miracle Child Kinsey closed out the night by singing the High School Musical song “We’re All In This Together,” and at this inaugural event, that proved to be true.

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!”