Forever FTK: Engaging young philanthropists at ‘For the Kids Shands Retreat’

Dance Marathon participants across the state of Florida who work to raise money for UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital gathered in September for the sixth annual “For the Kids Shands Retreat.”

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“This is a great opportunity to give high schools and collegiate students a tour of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital,” said Lindsay Ritenbaugh, M.Ed., senior development associate with UF Health Shands’ CMN team.

The participants travel from Tallahassee and South Georgia to meet some of the miracle families, doctors and nurses who are involved with the children’s hospital.

This year’s retreat celebrated the increase in high school participants and the impact that this new cadre of volunteers is having on Dance Marathon. More than 200 students and advisors attended, including 140 from high school programs.

This is the only chance for a Florida State University high school program to talk with a Florida Atlantic University high school program,” Ritenbaugh said. “Bringing these students together fosters more opportunities for collaboration. You can’t get this in a Google Hangout.”

The programs shared best practices and deeper conversation about goals. “I think it’s great for us all to be together. We have some staff members who work remotely, so it was beneficial for everyone to collaborate and talk about next steps,” said Ritenbaugh.

Dance Marathon at the University of Florida orange and blue logo

A special panel discussion on how funds were used brought the perspectives of parents, physicians, nurses and a Child Life specialist.

A highlight of the panel was Desmond Schatz, M.D., interim chair at the UF Department of Pediatrics and interim physician-in-chief at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. He challenged those in attendance to not just understand the need for fundraising, but the “why” around how programs are run.

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“I think his ability to use storytelling was not just, ‘We are doing this,’ but approach it as ‘Why we are doing this.’ It was beneficial to attendees and the panel as well, it really opened up to just genuine conversation,” Ritenbaugh said.

“Thank you so much for all of your support and accolades each year. We are making a difference and inspiring so many Hawk students each year to continue the journey. Looking forward to another great year,” said Shawna Ahmad, high school advisor at Seminole Community High School.

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