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University of Georgia Senior Receives 2018 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award

From the thousands of graduating seniors who have participated in Miracle Network Dance Marathon at the approximately 300 colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada, twenty students were selected to receive the 2018 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award for making an exceptional impact within their Dance Marathon program, on their individual campus and for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. To see all of this year’s recipients, click here. 

Dance Marathon Involvement: During my first year at UGA, I was on the Hospital Relations Committee and had the opportunity to attend many patient parties hosted by UGA Miracle at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. During my second year, I served as the Marketing Assistant Chair and helped plan and execute the events hosted by Miracle, especially the Annual Tour of Homes hosted for the Athens community. During my third year, I served as the very first Chief of Staff and developed the role into an integral part of the organization. I coordinated communication among the 30 person Executive Board and the 2,500+ organization members. I helped create a new leadership development program and worked to empower the 70 members of this leadership team to achieve unprecedented success. I also planned logistics for events throughout the year, introducing a new task-management software to facilitate planning and communication. In my final year, I served as the Executive Director and was the leader to our Executive Board, Leadership Team, and entire organization. As Executive Director, I led the organization as we added more programming, a new Greek Team Captain program, procured our first major corporate sponsorships, and pursued our first non-numerical goal. We also broke records for single day fundraising (our “$100 Day” raised $350,000 in 24 hours) and for in-event fundraising.

During my four years of involvement with UGA Miracle, I have personally fundraised over $30,000 for the kids at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – $15,000 of which was during my senior year alone.

UGA Miracle 2017-2018 Executive Board.

Campus/Community Involvement: Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society (Vice President); UGA Student Affairs Student Advisory Board; Honors Teaching Assistant; UGA Panhellenic Recruitment Counselor; Phi Mu Sorority Member; Franklin College Ambassador; Student Government Association Campaigns (Director of Philanthropy Outreach); Public Policy Scholars Program; Whatever it Takes Tutor; Center for Latino Achievement and Success in Education Tutor; Studied abroad in 20 countries for ~12 months cumulatively in college

Awards/Recognition: Foundation Fellowship (highest academic scholarship given to students at UGA, awarded to 20 students out of 6,000 first year students); Coca-Cola Scholar (national award given to 150 graduating high school seniors in recognition of academic achievement, leadership, and impact on community); Stamps Leadership Scholar; Phi Beta Kappa; Phi Kappa Phi, Presidential Scholar; Outstanding Senior Leader; UGA Homecoming Queen

Post-Graduation Plans: In August I will be starting as a Business Analyst with McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.  In the future, I desire to work as a policy maker in education or health care so I can work to eliminate the vast inequalities that exist in both sectors.

Maddie will be earning three B.A.’s in Anthropology, International Affairs, and Spanish.

How has Dance Marathon impacted you as a student leader? What specific skills have you developed during your involvement? 

While DM has given me many tangible skills like communicating effectively, analyzing financial data, and managing others, I am most grateful for the empathy it has given me, and it is this empathy that has helped me be a successful student leader. Empathy helps you better understand others and the impact of decisions you make. Without empathy, it is hard to build a cohesive, effective team or nurture future leaders. Especially in a college environment in which people have diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and goals, empathy can help you relate to others so that you can lead well. I will carry this skill with me for the rest of my life, for I know that empathy is crucial for success in nearly every relationship or job.

Why should students get involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon on their campus?

Students should get involved with Dance Marathon at their campuses to be a part of something much larger than themselves. With so many students, classes, and activities, college campuses can be very overwhelming. By joining a Dance Marathon program, students will immediately find a community to which every person who wants to help others belongs. Regardless of your background, your career interests, or even your personal experiences with hospitals and illnesses, you are an important member of the Dance Marathon community. As a part of a Dance Marathon program, you help make miracles for sick and innocent children, and in turn you will leave college a more humble, grateful, and passionate individual. I am continually blown away by the power of teenagers and young adults to truly change the world through Dance Marathon programs, and I think that being involved in a Dance Marathon program is one of the best decisions you can possibly make.

2017-2018 UGA Miracle Executive Board at the UGA Miracle Rehabilitation Gym at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

As an Atlanta native, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has always been a place that deeply impacted my family, friends, and community. From broken bones sustained from being a little too adventurous as a kid to curing a friend of leukemia after she was diagnosed in middle school, Children’s was a saving grace–just as it is to so many others in their own times of need. When I heard of UGA Miracle, I immediately knew I wanted to give back to the amazing hospital, but I could not have foreseen how much it would impact my college experience or me as a person. UGA Miracle’s mission and members have become the things that drive me every day. I dance for countless Miracle kids, whose lives have filled mine with hope, courage, and love. I dance for my peers, some of whom have battled horrific illnesses themselves or who have lost siblings to childhood diseases yet still are inspired to give back to others. I dance because I have directly seen the impact of our relationships with Miracle kids and the impact of the funds we raise on the hospital. There are so many reasons to support such a wonderful cause, and I love discovering new reasons with each interaction with a UGA Miracle member or kid and with each visit to the hospital.

What personal accomplishment/contribution are you most proud of from your involvement in Dance Marathon?

I am most proud of helping UGA Miracle find its purpose once again, hopefully ensuring the sustainability and wellbeing of the organization for years to come. When I was named Executive Director, it was mere hours after the organization did not hit its monetary fundraising goal for the first time in 22 years. At the end of the 2017 Dance Marathon, we fell short of our goal of $1.4 million by just $50,000. Despite that being a significant sum of money given to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Miracle members were extremely disappointed. People were crying sad tears at the end of the total reveal instead of celebrating their amazing accomplishments throughout the year. It had been a lofty goal – nearly 40% more than Miracle had raised the year before – so members had been pushed non-stop to fundraise in hopes that we would hit it, and they were shocked that even their hardest work could not produce the result. It was crushing for so many.

UGA Miracle’s statistical feats, while certainly impressive, were never what made Miracle so meaningful to me. For me, it was always about the people on and off this campus that taught me more about being selfless, compassionate, and fearless than I could have imagined. It’s about my peers, who are dedicated to making tangible change in the world around them. It’s about the patients and staff at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, who demonstrate strength and joy in the midst of life threatening illnesses and accidents. It’s about our Miracle families, who have become dear friends and who support us so fully even though we are, in theory, supporting them.

With all of that in mind, I wanted to be a different kind of leader for UGA Miracle. I had the seemingly crazy idea to have no numerical goal for the first time ever. Instead I wanted to encourage members to focus on the reasons we all joined this organization in the first place – to serve the Miracle families and the hospital. Our “goal” was titled “Miracles Beyond Measure,” and our main objective was to create immeasurable miracles. UGA Miracle has given over $8.5 million to the hospital over the course of its history, but that does not begin to quantify the impact we have had on the hospital and on the UGA community.

Maddie with CHOA Miracle Kid, Abby.

This year was truly beyond measure. Patients at Children’s ring a bell when they complete cancer treatments, and in Tate Grand Hall on February 18 during our Dance Marathon event, nearly 1,000 students came on stage to ring a similar bell in celebration of the achievement of raising over $100 during Dance Marathon. I have never seen bigger smiles or more enthusiasm at a UGA Miracle event, and for me, this was an amazing symbol of the dedication and passion this theme of “Miracles Beyond Measure” has inspired in so many. This was just one of the incredible moments at the best Dance Marathon I’ve attended. I will never forget countless people coming up to me after Total Reveal and thanking me for helping them love Miracle again this year. Nor will I ever forget the hugs from families who were so appreciative that this year was all about them.

At the conclusion of the 2018 Dance Marathon, we revealed that we had raised 1.26 million love-filled dollars, and there was not a dry eye in Tate Grand Hall – but this year for an entirely different reason. Our entire Miracle family was so genuinely proud and inspired by this result, and I know that I was probably the most proud one because I got to witness so many students discover a genuine passion for helping those in need.

Why should people donate to their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals?

I have always lived my life on the belief that circumstance is the only thing that makes one person different than the other and thus it is our responsibility to help those around us. Something that has always struck me about meeting Miracle families or patients at the hospital is that they are no different than any other family that I know, except that their children have had illnesses or accidents. These families happened to be in extremely difficult circumstances – things that could happen to any person at any time. When you donate to a children’s hospital, you are helping children receive life-saving care and have hope for tomorrow– and you never know if your family will be the ones needing this care and hope in the future.

Maddie was recognized as the 2017 University of Georgia Homecoming Queen.

Miracle Network Dance Marathon is an international movement, involving over 400 colleges, universities and K-12 schools across North America that fundraise for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since its inception in 1991, Miracle Network Dance Marathon has raised more than $220 million–ensuring that no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.

Learn more about Miracle Network Dance Marathon:

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