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Florida State University Senior Receives 2017 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 2017 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: In Dance Marathon at FSU, I started off as a dancer then I became a morale captain the following year. This past year I was one of the morale coordinators in charge of all of the morale captains (105 in total). Over the course of the 3 years I did Dance Marathon I raised a total of $4,587.00 and $2,266 of that total was raised this past year.

Campus/Community Involvement: I have worked over the summer for the past 4 years as a camp leader at Camp I Am Special in Jacksonville.

Post Graduation Plans: I plan on seeking out multiple opportunities and making the best decision for my future. I currently am looking into becoming a Child Life Specialist at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando and am also looking in to going to graduate school to become an Occupational Therapist. My goal is to work at a children’s hospital helping kids and families like I have been doing my entire life.

Garizio with the 2017 Dance Marathon at FSU Morale Coordinators and Captains.

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

Taking over this year as one of the three morale coordinators for Dance Marathon at FSU, I was tasked as the fundraising and financial coordinator for the morale program. This past year at Florida State, we expanded from about 85 morale captains to 105 in total. I brought the idea to my team of coordinators and our head chair that we should set a lofty fundraising goal. That goal was for every single morale captain to reach comma club (raise $1,000 total) before our total reveal at the end of our marathon in February. This was something that had never been done before in Dance Marathon at FSU’s 21-year history with 85 morale captains let alone the extra 25 captains we added this past year. I was constantly helping my captains fundraise by writing up email templates for them to send out to friends and family and giving crazy ideas that could help them fundraise. I FTKabbed, which is like being an Uber for friends that had gone out drinking that night and in exchange for the ride they would donate to my DonorDrive account rather than pay me money. That’s what everyone else did when they FTKabbed. When I FTKabbed, I asked the people I gave rides to that they donate to a specific captain that I knew needed a little motivation and help to cross the finish line of raising $1000. It was a year-round goal that we set and with about 2 hours left in our marathon we had every morale captain surround our gong at the marathon and scream as the final dollars were raised that got our 105th morale captain into comma club. This was a team goal not a personal goal, but never in my life have I been more proud and felt more accomplished than I did in that moment as that gong was being hit and it’s a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Garizio hosted his own personal fundraising week where he offered incentives to friends and families who donated to his fundraising efforts.

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

Dance Marathon has been amazing to me. No matter how much I give to this cause, I always end up feeling a little selfish because I wind up receiving so much more than I could ever give. Dance Marathon has taught me how to adapt quickly to any obstacle that can be thrown at me. Having 110 morale captains, I have learned to be more self-aware and empathetic and know that every person reacts to leadership differently. While being enthusiastic and peppy can motivate some people, being straight forward and being that safety net can motivate others. Most importantly, I have grown so much in confidence in my leadership abilities this past year and I am much more comfortable and poised being in a leadership role and knowing that I can handle anything that is thrown at me.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

In high school, I began volunteering at a summer camp called Camp I Am Special. Camp I Am Special is a sleep-away camp specifically for kids and adults with special needs and disabilities. I volunteered there for three straight summers before I was asked to become a camp leader (camp counselor) at the camp. I have been a camp leader at Camp I Am Special for the past four years now and it is the place that has shaped my personality and made me into the man that I am today. Every single person that is involved is so genuine and selfless and passionate that it is impossible not to fall in love with it. Camp I Am Special is the happiest place on Earth in my eyes. When I got to college I set a goal to find my “camp away from camp.” I looked into multiple different organizations like fraternities and different clubs on campus trying to see where I fit in, but I wasn’t having much luck. It wasn’t until I stepped into our civic center as a dancer for Dance Marathon at FSU that I knew I had found my camp away from camp. Everything I did while I was at the marathon brought me joy. The miracle families reminded me of my campers, the linedance consisted of the exact type of music that we played at camp, and the morale captains were so peppy and enthusiastic that to me, they were a replica of my fellow camp leaders. That year I stood for 20 hours, but it felt like I had stood for only 4 or 5 hours and I did not want to leave when it was over. After I did more research following the marathon that year, I found out that many of my campers at Camp I Am Special have been treated at different CMN Hospitals and this only added to the growing passion I had for this amazing cause. Over the next two years I added a million other reasons why I participate in Dance Marathon, but at the end of the day, Dance Marathon became my camp away from camp and it is hands down the highlight of my college career.

Garizio with one of his campers at Camp I Am Special.

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

I recently listened to a comedian speak at Momentum 2017 last month in Orlando who talked about how life was kind of like telling a joke. After I thought about this more I started to think about how being apart of a Miracle Network Dance Marathon, in a way, is kind of like telling a joke too. See every joke has a setup (all of the meetings, events, share-it nights, high school Dance Marathons, the physical marathon itself, etc) and then a punch line (the hope, fulfillment, and joy given to all of the families impacted by our cause expressed through our total reveal) and as a student getting involved, whether it is being a dancer or joining the internal team, you are the comedian telling the joke. By getting involved you are able to put a part of yourself into a cause that you and so many of your peers are so genuinely passionate about that when it comes time to reveal the punch line those feelings of hope, fulfillment, and joy are not only received by the families impacted but by you, the person telling the joke, someone who has worked so hard to do more and make their voice heard. Students should get involved with the Miracle Network Dance Marathon on their campus so that they can be impacted the way I have been impacted and so that they can start telling more jokes.

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

People should donate to their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals because, by donating, you are giving every child, family, hospital employee, anyone that comes in contact with that machine that you helped fund hope for the future and the will to keep fighting for one more day. Dance Marathon at FSU raises funds for UF Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, Florida and I took a tour of the hospital to see where exactly the money goes. It was heartbreaking to go into different patient’s rooms and see them hooked up to these machines that are keeping them alive. Then I was shown the Dance Marathon at FSU sticker on one of the machines and was told that our school had funded the machine that was keeping a child alive and in that moment all I could think about was what I could have done to more to fundraise. Take of tour of your local CMN Hospital and you will find yourself wondering why you haven’t donated sooner.

Garizio at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, his local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in Gainesville, Fla.
Garizio with other representatives from Dance Marathon at FSU celebrating Children’s Hospitals Week at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ Momentum conference.

Miracle Network Dance Marathon is an international movement, involving over 300 colleges and universities 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 $180 million–ensuring that no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.

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