University of Florida Graduate Student 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: Over the past six years at the University of Florida, I have served in a variety of roles with Dance Marathon at UF. In 2012, I participated in the 26.2-hour event as a “dancer” for my respective organization. I was energized and motivated to seek further involvement with the organization and became a Community Events Captain in Fall 2012. Over the course of the next three years, I served on the Community Events team and organized and executed five community-oriented events. During my undergraduate career, I watched miracles come to life – DM at UF increased its total amount fundraised from $886,000 to over $2 million, all for the kids at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.

After graduating with my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in Spring 2015, I knew that I was returning to UF as a Double Gator to receive my Master of Health Administration and was hopeful to continue my involvement with DM at UF. In Fall 2015, I became a Family Relations Captain and served as the liaison between a CMN Miracle Family, the Wyants, and the organization, and in Fall 2016, I became the Assistant Director of Family Outreach. In this capacity, I assisted in managing a team of 40 captains, monitored all communications and wrote publications (newsletters) on behalf of the organization. Furthermore, I organized and disseminated Pen Pal Letters on a monthly basis to every Miracle Family and oversaw the Family Room activities during the 26.2-hour event.

From 2012 to today, I individually raised and/or donated approximately $14,000 to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.

Campus/Community Involvement: As a graduate student, I served as the President for the Health Administrative Student Association (HASA) and as the liaison between 50 graduate students and UF MHA Faculty to address student ideas and concerns, as well as contribute to philanthropic causes in the community. Additionally, I am a Recruitment Chairman for HASA and successfully planned and hosted two Open House events that resulted in over 150 applicants for the program per cycle. I am an active student associate to the American College of Healthcare Executives. Lastly, I am an active member of Florida Blue Key, the most prestigious honorary leadership society in the state of Florida, and served previously on the executive board as secretary.

I also have completed three different internships, as both an undergraduate and graduate student, in various healthcare organizations across the Southeastern United States. I interned with UF Health in Spring 2015 and redesigned the system’s outpatient letter communication system under the supervision of the CEO and VP of Strategy. In Summer 2015 as well, I interned for Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, where I shadowed and observed the duties of top administration, physician recruiters and marketing. This past summer, I interned at Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Tennessee and improved patient education rates prior to discharge for pediatric asthma patients, reducing readmission rates for this specific population.

As an undergraduate student, I served in myriad leadership roles outside of Dance Marathon at UF. I served as the President of the Panhellenic Council and am a member of Delta Delta Delta. I also assisted in founding and serving on the executive board of a student-run, not-for-profit organization called Dream Team, which created volunteer opportunities in UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, with a mission to brighten the lives of children in cardiac care. As Dream Team’s Executive Director of “Capes For Kids,” which was a national program designed to help pediatric patients cope with their conditions, I implemented the program within the hospital’s general pediatric units, the PICU and the CICU and created over 160 capes in 2014 to disseminate to patients. When I saw a little boy’s face lit up with joy as he sported his cape on his back, totting his I.V. pole in his hand, zooming down the halls of the pediatric floor, I knew all the long hours and hard work to bring the program to UF Health was worthwhile and would positively impact patients’ hospital experience. Additionally, I served as a Dream Team volunteer as both a weekly and monthly volunteer and dedicated over 150 hours in the CICU with patients and their families, spending the most rewarding and troublesome times at the patients’ besides. These patients taught me how to be courageous, and the invisible capes they wear while battling diseases are not invisible to me.

Awards/Recognition:

Dance Marathon at UF Jen Krug Award (2017)
UF Hall of Fame Class of 2016
Lean “Green” Certification, Simpler Business System (2016)
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s List (2011-2015)
UF Order of Omega Honor Society Emerging Greek Leader (2011)
The Stephen C. O’Connell Leadership Scholarship (2011-2012)

Post-Graduation Plans: In early July, I will be starting my post-graduate administrative fellowship at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in New York City, New York. This yearlong program will allow me to rotate through different departments within the CUMC College of Physicians and Surgeons under the supervision of the Vice Dean of Administration. I will take on project work to enhance my skills as a future administrator in healthcare. In the future, I hope to work in a pediatric hospital as a department manager or executive. To work in a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital one day would be a dream come true.

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

As a 5-­‐year captain, there are countless memories and moments that I could consider to be  my “most proud” accomplishment from my involvement with Dance Marathon at UF. I could describe when Nate F., the 2014 CMN Hospitals Florida Champion, and I sang Katy Perry’s “Roar” at the top of our lungs, share with you that I helped Miracle Child Bella N. take some of her first steps upon graduating from her walker, or attempt to put into words the feeling when Miracle Child Daniel P. said that he loved me after being granted approval from his medical staff to leave the hospital after 120 days in admission to attend DM at UF. From racing the FT5K each year while pushing my Miracle Child in his wheelchair to forming deep and meaningful bonds with the Miracle Families and CMN staff, I have developed a true love for this organization and the miracles it creates For The Kids. However, one Miracle Child in particular has changed my life forever.

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you are the world.” Zander Wyant, now 10 years old, has grown right before my very own eyes over the past six years. He has more enthusiasm, charisma, compassion, and kindheartedness than any other child I know. This past fall, Zander and his family attended a community event hosted by DM at UF, and “Z,” as I call him, was so excited to play with everyone there – I knew that he enjoys to simply be a normal kid and do what normal kids do, despite his medical complications. During one game, he got hit in the head with a ball and began to cry. His father, Chris, rushed over to comfort him, but called out to me upon hugging Zander. I ran over to them, and Chris told me that Z wanted some love from me. Of course, my heart melted in that moment. I hugged Zander and told him that he was so strong and playing so well with the other kids and college students. Not but a minute later, he wiped away his tears, smiled, and went off to the next field. Later that evening, Zander’s parents asked me to be his godmother. It is moments like that -­‐ honors like this -­‐ that make Dance Marathon at UF so incredibly life-­‐changing. Zander makes my heart beat and is a constant reminder that Dance Marathon at UF is my family. I would not be the person I am today without Zander’s influence. Z, just like DM at UF, has given me the world, and I could not be more proud to watch him grow up knowing he is loved.

Torgerson with UF Health Shands Miracle kid, Zander at DM at UF’s 2017 Dance Marathon event.

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

Dance Marathon has done more than simply impact me as a student leader; Dance Marathon has shaped and influenced me to lead with selflessness and altruism. Over the past six years, I have had the honor to watch Dance Marathon at UF become a movement – a service and passion that is led by some of the most humble, inspiring and goodhearted young adults, all of whom understand that this movement – this cause – is so much bigger than ourselves. Dance Marathon is a culmination of visionary leadership, advocacy and teamwork and fundraising efforts that enable students to find a purpose in life that neither simply be created nor destroyed; Dance Marathon is a feeling that, once you possess, will forever be in your heart. Dance Marathon has truly allowed me to find the best version of myself, as a person, leader and young careerist.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

I began my collegiate career in 2011 with a passion for UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. After a family friend received care at the children’s hospital for one of their twin boys, Parker, who ended up passing away from a rare, cancerous brain tumor, I knew that I had to find a way to give back to the hospital that gifted Parker with months, instead of days, to live. Through my involvement on campus, I discovered Dance Marathon at UF and pledged to dance for kids like Parker – miracles who change our lives for the better.

At the closing ceremonies of Dance Marathon at UF 2012, the Miracle Families were scattered around the O’Dome to remove the hospital bands that we wore on all the dancers’ wrists during the event. I was still full of energy even though I had been standing on my feet and dancing for 26.2 hours, because I knew the money raised by students was going to help save so many lives. This one Miracle Child came up to me and cut off my bracelet, and I thanked him. In that moment, he clasped both of my hands in his, and through his glasses, I could see tears forming in his eyes. He squeezed my hands tightly and said, “No, thank you.” I realized that the selflessness that embodies this organization. From that moment on, I knew DM at UF was my family, and I am still so honored every day to say that I am “FTK.” My closest friends have come from DM at UF, and I have watched the total fundraised go from over $866,000 to $2.7 million in six years. Talk about incredible. Talk about life changing.

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

If I can leave any advice for students who want to get involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon on their campus, it would be that this organization on any campus has so much untapped potential and opportunities for growth, and YOU, as young and eager student advocates, really can be the next generation of leaders who move mountains, invigorate change and become miracle makers. Supporting this organization was the best decision of my life, and I highly encourage you to not surpass the opportunity to get involved.

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

My first response to this question was, “Why not?” However, I figured some statistics would be advantageous to persuade the public to donate to their local CMN Hospital. This past fall, students at UF tirelessly raised over $400,000 in 26.2 hours and “Transformed Today.” My very own Family Relations Team raised over $100,000 in 6 days leading up to the 26.2-­‐hour event. This spring, over 800 dancers stood on their feet for 26.2 hours to prove strong for patients and families seeking treatment at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. Together, DM at UF raised over $2.7 million in one year. As the public becomes more attune to the movement that Dance Marathon is creating for CMN Hospitals – where kids are helping kids and where dollars fundraised are purchasing medical equipment, supporting Child Life services, funding research and saving lives – I fully believe that donating will become a sincere, authentic act of kindness. Every dollar raised has the potential to change every child’s life, and the dollars raised thus far have saved my godson’s life. Think of the future we can help create – the miracles we can help make – by donating to the cause that has forever changed so many lives across America.

 


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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