During its annual 26.2-hour event on April 1-2, Dance Marathon at the University of Florida raised $2,007,079.05 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.
Hundreds of dancers worked tirelessly throughout the school year and then took to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to “Imagine the Day” when childhood illness no longer exists, and every child has their hospital wristband removed once and for all.
“I love the theme this year,” said Rashmin C. Savani, M.B., Ch.B., chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine. “Imagine the day when there is no childhood illness – I want to be out of a job!”
Some ambassadors and their families even got in on the fundraising. Nate Ferrell, who is now a freshman at Gainesville High School, participated in mini-marathons throughout the spring. Mini-marathons contributed more than $600,000 to DM at UF’s total.
“It’s been really great to be a bigger part of Dance Marathon now,” said Nate, 15, the top fundraiser at Gainesville High School’s mini-marathon. “I’m able to see first-hand where all the money goes.”
Individually, fellow ambassador 19-year-old Kinsey Bogart raised more than $6,000, surpassing her fundraising goal.
“It helps kids like me,” Kinsey said with a smile. “I look forward to this weekend every year!”
UF Health staff and faculty also contributed. Savani was the first person to sound the gong, which represents a gift during the event.
Funds support numerous areas. For patient care, gifts provide innovative medical equipment for pediatric patients. Fundraising also bolsters research programs, paving the way for new and novel therapies.
“The research being funded is more than I can describe,” said Elias Sayour, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine. “The work you’re (DM at UF) doing has funded tremendous research at the University of Florida to pave a brighter future.”
UF Health Shands chief operating officer Traci d’Auguste shared how DM at UF’s fundraising also goes toward capital projects, including improving patient care areas in UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.
“This money is going to make that change,” d’Auguste said. “You are raising money to support our families, our physicians, nurses and staff.”
Eighteen Miracle Families told their story throughout the event. Lauren Price, 17, this year’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion for UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, kicked off the opening ceremony by sharing more about her health journey.
“After leaving the hospital, I felt an obligation to give back, so no child has to go through what I had to,” said Lauren, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. “It’s so important that we keep on fighting until all the stories end with graduations and birthdays.”
Now in its 29th year, DM at UF has raised more than $30,000,000 for CMN Hospitals at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.
Every dollar supplies hope. Hope is extremely powerful not just for today’s children, but for tomorrow’s as well.
“Hope is a very special thing,” Sayour said. “It absolutely transcends what is happening day in and day out. That hope goes on generation after generation.”