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Gonzaga 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: During my involvement with Gonzaga University Dance Marathon, I personally fundraised $20,030 for Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital and held the following leadership positions:

2014-2015: GUDM Founder
2016: GUDM Executive Director
2017: GUDM Student Advisor

Campus/Community Involvement:

Parent & Family Orientation Coordinator, University Ambassador, Student Involvement and Leadership Intern, Children’s Miracle Network (Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital) Intern, Parent & Family Relations Marketing Specialist


NRHA Student of the month
Deans List- Fall 2016 

Post-Graduation Plans: My dream is to work for with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in some way, whether that means at a national level, at a member hospital, or with a university’s Dance Marathon.

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

While it is hard to consider any part of GUDM a personal accomplishment, as it has always been a team effort, I would say I am most proud of myself for always saying yes. In many ways, it would have been a lot easier to say no and not come back after our first year. But if you know me, you know that was never an option. Since day one I have put my blood, sweat, and tears into this organization and always wanted nothing but the best for GUDM. While it is about so much more than the money, I am proud to have personally raised $20,000 for Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital throughout my three years of GUDM. All in all, I will always be proud to say I was a part of such an incredible movement that truly did change my life.

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

Through Dance Marathon, I have grown as a student leader in ways I never thought were possible. When I started GUDM, I was going into the summer after my freshman year and yet I was responsible for leading people who were upwards of three years older than me. Although it was very intimidating at first, I didn’t let it get in the way. I worked with those board members to help them in the ways I could, while learning from them as well. Learning to not only talk but to listen to my team was one of the first lessons I learned as a result of GUDM. As a student leader, I also learned the important of giving and receiving feedback. While sometimes it may have not always been the feedback I wanted, each time I grew into a better leader because I was able to recognize my flaws and make changes. Furthermore, I was able to create a dynamic team with members of my board that encouraged open dialogue and created a space for feedback to be given.

As far as hard skills, my involvement in dance marathon has provided me with excellent event planning skills. While coordinating and/or overseeing all logistical aspects of GUDM, I have been able to collaborate with over 30 campus partners and several community sponsors. I have also developed creative fundraising and marketing campaigns to achieve short and long term program goals. This has allowed me to maintain an enthusiastic attitude and produce quality results while still meeting tight deadlines. While I could go on and on about all the hard skills that my involvement with GUDM has provided me, I would trade all those for one. The most important “skill” I have been able to develop is empathy. Empathy has always been a strength of mine but, throughout my time with GUDM, I have fully understood the importance of caring for people. Whether that means caring for the executive board through free food or 1:1’s or providing comfort to a Miracle Family before they go on stage. There is no skill or strength that is more vital as a Dance Marathon leader than caring for your team, your organization, and your community.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

I participate in Dance Marathon solely for the moments it creates for our miracle families and dancers alike. While there are many moments throughout my three years of GUDM that can illustrate why I participate, I want to share with you a few moments with one special little girl.

I first met Maddie in September of 2015 when her and her mom came and spoke at our Fall Dance Marathon Executive Board Retreat at the hospital. I watched 5-year-old Maddie, seemingly shy at the time climb up into her mom’s arm as her mom began to tell us about Maddie’s Journey at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital. Maddie was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia and spent the first 9 months of her life in a hospital, 7 of which she spent fighting for her life. She has since spent several nights in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Emergency room at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.

She told us that as of a few months ago Maddie has started to eat regular food and no longer relies solely on her feeding tube. She then thanks us for having donuts this morning and tell us that Maddie had never had a donut until a few minutes ago. A donut, something that we wouldn’t even thing is a big deal, is a huge milestone for Maddie, and we got to be there and share that special moment with her.

Maddie came to her first Dance Marathon in 2016 and absolutely loved it. She danced all night long and was in tears when her mom told her they had to go. She then preceded to negotiate that since she was missing the next 3 theme hours she should get to celebrate them before they left. For the next 30 minutes Maddie would change her outfit ever 10 minutes, take photos, and dance around telling everyone which theme hour she was celebrating. When her 30 minutes was up I hugged Maddie goodbye and told her I wanted to hang out with her again soon. Her mom turned to me and said, “you realize your part of our family now.”

As tears came down my checks, I all could say was, “Thank you allowing me to be part of your journey.”

Maddie is a fighter, she’s my hero, and one of my best friends. She comes down to campus at least once a month to have lunch or hangout and always insists on going to the Zagg’in wagon for some popcorn chicken. She never stops talking about dance marathon, constantly asking what the next year’s theme hours will be, or how many days until the big event. And she has ensured me that she will come to Gonzaga for college and she will run Dance Marathon. It is moments like these with miracle kids like Maddie whose bravery and courage motivate me to do more and be more that I choose to participate in Dance Marathon.

Wells with Miracle kid Maddie at Gonzaga’s 2017 Dance Marathon event.

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

Students should get involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon on their campus to be part of something bigger than themselves. To be inspired by stories of hope, courage, and bravery from the smallest or biggest heroes they’ll ever met. To understand what it means to fight for something or someone. To build their character by never giving up. To be part of a seemingly small group of thoughtful students who truly are, changing the world.

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

With so many non-profits needing help I can understand the challenge people face regarding where or what to give to. I will always choose to give to my local children’s hospital for several reasons, one being that ever kid deserves to celebrate another birthday. Another is that no family should have to go through the truly horrible experience of having a sick or injured kid and if they do, they should be receiving the best possible care. Lastly, you will never know when someone you love many need that hospital, and by donating, you are doing your part to ensure your loved one gets the care they need.

Gonzaga University Dance Marathon’s 2017 fundraising total.

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.

Learn more about Miracle Network Dance Marathon:

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