Gainesville, Florida is known for a few important things. For one, it’s home to the University of Florida and over 50,000 thriving students. It’s known for Gator Football, Tim Tebow and Saturdays in the Swamp. It’s known for the incredible care children receive at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, and most importantly, it’s known for being home to the most successful student-run philanthropy in the southeastern United States: Dance Marathon at UF.
Dance Marathon at the University of Florida isn’t just a yearlong philanthropy, it’s a movement that involves 19 Overall Directors, 386 Captains, 174 Emerging Leaders, 150 partners, 6,861 fundraisers and over 43,746 total donations. It has spread campus-wide, intertwining organizations, students, faculty, community members and highlights the very core of the heart of the Gator nation.
For the last 22 years, Dance Marathon at the University of Florida has raised more than 12.4 million dollars for the kids at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital–making it the number two DM program in the whole country (and world). Although Dance Marathon is spread among campuses across the country, at the University of Florida, it’s something special that truly brings us all together.
DM is different at UF than anywhere else because of our close proximity to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. Students at UF have the unique opportunity to experience and witness first-hand exactly how profoundly DM impacts the lives of the children at the hospital. We are so lucky to have Shands within walking distance from campus, enabling students to spend time volunteering, working and visiting the hospital.
Students are encouraged to go on hospital tours, where they get to visit the different pediatric floors, interact with children who are patients at Shands, talk to doctors and nurses and see the life-saving equipment donated by the Children’s Miracle Network. UF students get to see miracle children and their families at events in Gainesville, spend time with them and get to put names and faces to a cause that so many people are so dedicated to. It’s easy to be motivated to fundraise for a cause you can directly see who is benefitting from, and because of Shands proximity to UF, it gives students the ability to experience the impact they are making. Seeing the different life-saving machines with the little red CMN stickers on them, seeing the clean, bright, cheery entrance and new neonatal unit that were only made possible by donations raised by Dance Marathon are ways to inspire students to keep fundraising and stay involved in Dance Marathon.
Dance Marathon at the University of Florida is unlike anywhere else. It’s a contagious feeling of involvement and giving that students do because they want to, not because they have to. DM at UF is something bigger than each individual student or individual organization or individual team. DM at UF is a movement of people coming together to fight for children who are too sick to fight for themselves. At the end of the 26.2 hours when everyone is exhausted, sore, and drained, they will raise the numbers up with the fundraising total and every individual who contributed to those numbers will have hearts bursting with pride and joy at the incredible miracles made by students who are doing their best to make a difference for the most amazing children.