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University of Florida 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: I began my journey with Dance Marathon at UF by participating as a dancer, standing and dancing for 26.2 hours straight. I was part of the first group of dancers my fraternity had ever put forth. I then became a Captain for the Marathon Relations team, planning and executing a partnered high school program in South Florida. From there, I became the Marathon Relations Overall Director, overseeing all partnered high school programs benefitting DM at UF throughout the state of Florida. This year, I served as the Overall Director, leading our organization to involve nearly 8,000 students and fundraise over $2.7 million.

During my four years of involvement in Dance Marathon at UF, I fundraised approximately $11,000 for our local hospital, $5,005 of which was during my senior year alone.

Drew and Nate, a Miracle Kid from UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, FL.

Campus/Community Involvement: Gator Growl Assistant Director of Sponsorship, Member of Florida Blue Key Leadership Honorary, Official Student Ambassador through the Florida Cicerones, Recruitment Chair/Internal Philanthropy Chair/Public Relations Chair of the Sigma Chi Fraternity, Independent and Cohort Researcher through the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Volunteer, UF Health Shands Hospital student volunteer, and New Faces for Honduras Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery volunteer

Awards/Recognition: University of Florida Hall of Fame Member, UF Presidential Scholarship Recipient, UF Honors Program Member, UF Science for Life HHMI Undergraduate Research Member, Dean’s List Recipient for Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, and Fall 2016 terms, and Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior 2015 Student Research Award

Post-Graduation Plans: I plan to enter dental school to pursue a career in Oral Maxillofacial Surgery with a specialization in cleft lip/palate treatments for pediatric patients.

Drew and the 2017 Dance Marathon at UF Overall Team revealing their 2017 fundraising total.

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

I came into the position of Overall Director of Dance Marathon 2017 terrified. I was terrified because a campus viewed us a monetary machine. They viewed us as a number. A figure that necessitated growth and nothing more. A 26.2 hour event that guided many to philanthropy, but showcased success in one image. My personal contribution derives from combatting that perception. I walked in and knew that our organization demanded a change. I knew that thousands of students could fall in love with a child healthcare philanthropy and as much as I wanted to direct them, I came to the realization, that my sole purpose was to show them why they should care. My personal accomplishment is not held in a number, it is not defined by a percentage, but it is harvested within the over 7,000 students that participated in the organization I had the honor of leading. I am eternally grateful for my involvement, because it demonstrated to me the capacity for greatness, inspiration, and hope.

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

The fundamental key to inspiration is leadership. People follow inspiration. They want to be moved, progressed, and invested within. My involvement within this organization has shown me how to inspire. I take the term “student leader” and discard it. The denotation of “student” is demeaning. It makes your accomplishments feel limited. Students of the Miracle Network Dance Marathon movement are LEADERS. We are people that practice out of passion. We are individuals driven by the success of others and fueled by the hope of the future. The title of student subjects us to these four years. While I have learned a tumultuous amount over these years, the connections made, friendships established, and personality grown surpass every factor. How have I been impacted as a student leader? Simple – I wasn’t one. I was made a student leader by motivating thousands of students about a cause that burned within me every single day. I have developed the skill of empathy. I have grown to understand the human condition and respect, value, and appreciate every conversation. Dance Marathon has shown me leadership, but most importantly, it has instilled that quality within me.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

I have many siblings. On paper, I have one biological sister, five half siblings, and nine stepsiblings. In all of those, I have only one child healthcare discussion. My younger sister, Amelia, has hearing difficulties. She was born with a condensed Eustachian tube that causes her to have frequent ear infections, and subsequently, common hospital visits. Over the years of my youth, that became normal. It was acceptable of me to spend a few days in the hospital and make lighthearted conversations with the most vibrant, beautiful, and limited soul of Amelia. I became frustrated. I became infuriated. I wanted to make a difference in the process of child healthcare, because through those experiences, I knew I could. I joined Dance Marathon not knowing what I was getting into, but eternally supportive of the cause I was promoting. Ultimately, I “do” DM because I see the difference. I am pursuing a career where I make a difference in the life of someone every single day. I can’t do that now. I wish I could, but I am limited in resources. What I can do now, is instill hope. I can make people care. I can make people love, understand, and know! Why do I DM? I dance for a cure. I dance for a future. Yet most importantly, I dance for hope.

Drew and his family at the 2017 DM at UF Alumni Gala.

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

Why get involved? Because it will advance you as a human. I will keep this brief, but ultimately, it will better you because this organization understands that “to the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.” Get involved to be that difference. Dance to symbolize your desire to impact. Most importantly, care about this cause because it truly makes a tangible difference.

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

They should donate to inspire hope, instill care, and advance their community. Yes, that answer is direct, but it is what every donor has to understand. Charities request progress and we demonstrate that success. Philanthropies vie for exposure and we propagate that. The difference between a local children’s hospital and any other non-profit has nothing to do with statistics, it has to do with the patient you are saving.

DM at UF collaborated with students from University of Georgia’s Dance Marathon to bring Miracle families to the Florida vs. Georgia football game in Jacksonville.


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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