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Saint Joseph’s 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: Executive Director of the inaugural Saint Joseph’s University Dance Marathon in the fall of 2016 and 2017.

Campus/Community Involvement: Camp Counselor, Ronald McDonald House Volunteer, Peer-to-peer Fundraising

Post-Graduation Plans: I plan to attend nursing school (accl degree) after graduating in December 2017

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

Dance Marathon is something I’m incredibly proud of. Dance Marathon came into my life at the perfect time. When I was invited to my first Dance Marathon as a Miracle Kid, I didn’t understand why there were hundreds of college students dancing in tutus. In the spring of my first year in university, Dance Marathon saved me.

When I finished cancer treatment in 2012, I went back to high school with a burning desire to give something to my Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in exchange for saving my life. I didn’t have money to write a fat check. I want to be a pediatric oncology nurse, but even one nurse can’t save all of the kids alone. Two weeks after attending my first Dance Marathon as a Miracle Kid, I found it. A Hootathon exec member texted me to thank me for coming to the event and just to ask me how the semester was going because I’d mentioned struggling with taking three science courses at once. I realized then just how much beauty, grit and passion was at the core of this movement. I’m proud to be part of something larger than myself. I am proud that we were able to raise over $27,000 for my hospital. I’m most proud of being able to find myself and contribute to the place and people that I hold so close to my heart.’

Saint Joseph’s University Dance Marathon’s 2016 fundraising total benefitting Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

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

Dance Marathon taught me that it is important to feel connected to your work, but it is more important to use that passion to drive toward an end. For example: going into DM was really scary. It wasn’t just me fundraising peer-to-peer anymore. There were 13 people who looked to me for guidance, and I didn’t have the answers all of the time. Passion drove me to find those answers. I’m not always comfortable asking for help, but I couldn’t do this alone so that passion drove me to do just that. I asked anyone I could for help with financial support for lighting equipment, sponsors to donate enough food to feed 300 people for 12 hours. With a new event and new team, things change very quickly. In the beginning, we lost team members frequently. When our PR director left and no one else was comfortable with graphic design, that passion drove me. I had no idea where to start, so I downloaded some design software and absorbed her tasks. Because my end goal was a successful event, I was willing to give up anything for us to give this special gift to our local CMN Hospital.

SJU DM leaders on a tour of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

I participate and give my all to Dance Marathon because it is the most important thing to me. DM has given me an opportunity to tangibly support the hospital that saved my life. It’s even more amazing to see other students at my university gain the passion For The Kids that I have in my heart too. I participate in Dance Marathon because all kids deserve to dream. It’s one thing to see the difference of a dollar in a children’s hospital. It is a much different experience to feel the impact of those dollars. I’ve felt the impact of those dollars and I am committed to my part in making sure all kids get the opportunity to dream.

Simmons during her treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

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

Students should join Dance Marathon because of how powerful the movement is. Dance Marathon has something to offer for everyone, as long as the end goal is supporting children’s hospitals. In the first stages of SJU DM, I looked to my friends to embark on this huge venture. Most people realized how huge of a task it would be and said no. I had a friend who was an accounting major, who was interested in our Finance position. She didn’t have any attachments to Dance Marathon, but took a shot. Together, we were able to put on a great event and gain 13 best friends. That seems silly, but I didn’t expect fundraising for my local CMN Hospital to lead to so much greatness. Ultimately, students should get involved to be  part of something so much larger than themselves. DM isn’t for your personal growth — you don’t become a part of it to become inspired. DM has taught me to both inspire and be inspired. The inspiration stems from seeing kids who have no reason to smile, but choose to anyway. It’s about being able to give another person a reason to smile. It’s inspiring to realize that as an inexperienced 18-year-old, you are still able to offer something to the world. I’ve never encountered a similar student org.

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

People should donate to their local CMN Hospitals because it’s one of the best places you can invest your money. If that’s not enough, donate because the person in the hospital receiving a cancer diagnosis did not ever think this would happen to them the previous day. No person wants this for a child. Because of donations to my children’s hospital, I was able to have one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation 20 minutes from my home. Because of those donations, I was able to Skype into my classroom with a computer provided by the hospital and graduate on time. That computer was the resource for avoiding a delayed graduation due to my diagnosis. Because of those dollars, I was able to dream. I live and breathe Dance Marathon so all kids can have the resources to dream, regardless of having to be in the hospital.

Simmons and her younger brother, Reggie.


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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