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University of Illinois 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: Three years on the IlliniThon executive board.  2015 Director of Catering, 2016 & 2017 President. During my years of involvement in Dance Marathon, I personally fundraised $5,968.51 for our local hospital. 

Campus/Community Involvement: Panhellenic Council Vice President of Programming (2016), It’s On Us Task Force (2015 & 2016), First Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education (FYCARE) Facilitator (2015-present), GUARD (Greek Sexual Assault & Consent Workshop) Facilitator (2016-present)

Awards/Recognition: 2017 Greek Woman of the Year: This award is given to a graduating senior in Greek life.  I was chosen to receive this honor out of 3,800 women involved in the Greek community. Senior 100 Honorary: Was selected as one of the top 100 elite seniors in my graduating class of 8,000+. Criteria is based on academic excellence, leadership involvement, and community service commitment. Dean’s List: Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016. Semester GPA of 3.9 or higher.

Post-Graduation Plans: Currently undecided.  I am currently looking for a job in the non-for-profit sector, however I also have been accepted to several law schools and if I do not end up working for a few years I will be attending law school at the University of Notre Dame.

The IlliniThon Executive Board with their 2017 fundraising total–a 100% increase in their fundraising from 2016!

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

I first got involved in Dance Marathon for the reason so many others do, for the adorable kiddos.  Hearing their stories always motivated me, and doing something amazing with some incredible student leaders that became fast friends was a great feeling.  However, in November 2016 things got personal for me when I came home for Thanksgiving break and my mother told me that a family member had been diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer several weeks prior.  For the past few months I have watched this family member fight an uphill battle with a grim prognosis, and to see children do the same thing is something I don’t even have words for.  Everything about illness and injury became very real for me, and the term “it can happen to anyone” is so accurate.  My position in IlliniThon helped me through such a hard time because it was an incredible feeling to know that the families and children at St. John’s in Springfield, IL were counting on me.  If I didn’t wake up every morning and do my job as president to the best of my ability, our program would not help as much as we possibly could.  With every email I sent and meeting I lead, I knew that I was making a difference, and during such a hard time that was something that really motivated me to keep going.   Since my family member’s diagnosis I participate in Dance Marathon for not only the kids, but the families who are cheering them on during their fights.

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

The personal contribution that I am the proudest of from my involvement in Dance Marathon is creating a brand-new program structure that allows for sustainable growth.  When I became president in April of 2015, there had never been an organized structure that remained constant year to year, and I wanted to change that.  During my two years as president, I created the IlliniThon Leadership Constitution, which includes the responsibilities of each executive board position, explains the organization of each leadership cabinet, and has instructions for how to deal with difficult situations.  I also created the IlliniThon Five-Year Strategic Plan, which allowed for a struggling program to identify key areas of potential growth and focus our efforts there so that we could grow not only our total fundraising, but our involvement on campus as well.  When I took over as president, the program had raised $127,000, and now that I am leaving office we just had a $310,000 year.  I believe that they structural changes I made to the program allowed us to flourish by getting more students involved in our cause by taking on a leadership position, but by fixing areas that were the most important in a timely manner.  Under my leadership, IlliniThon went from a struggling organization to the largest registered student organization on campus. 

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

I owe everything that I know about leadership to my involvement in Dance Marathon.  The largest skill that I developed during my time with IlliniThon is hands down the ability to take criticism.  I think that accepting criticism and using it in a constructive way is a skill every leader initially struggles with, we innately want to be well liked and be told that we are doing the best possible job.  I learned that the criticism I received from members of the leadership team had nothing to do with me personally, I was simply the one who had the power to let them know that their concerns were being heard and something would be done about it.  Whether it was the date of a fundraising push day, or the timeline for the Big Event, I learned that as a leader the best thing you can do is make yourself available so everyone feels like their voice is being heard, even if the final decisions weren’t what they wanted.  In addition to this, I also learned the power of a thank you.  Leading a team of 175 peers is not a job anyone is truly prepared for, and I learned that thanking each person for their time and dedicated does not fall on deaf ears.

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

I think that the most accurate way to answer that question is, why shouldn’t college students get involved with the Miracle Network Dance Marathon on their campus?  You literally change lives by having fun for an entire year. Not only are you supporting children in your local community, but you’re joining something so much bigger than yourself.  Our generation gets a lot of slack for being selfish and unmotivated; however, I like to argue that whoever says that has never stood in front of the stage at a total reveal.  It’s life changing to see what happens when everyone does their part.  As a dancer, you raise money throughout the year, attend some meetings, and by the time the Big Event comes around, you get to interact with the people who you helped.  It’s an incredible feeling to change someone else’s life.

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

Because the children that you are supporting are children in your community.  The call that one family gets that turns their life upside down could be coming for any of us tomorrow, childhood illness and injury does not discriminate.  Supporting your Children’s Miracle Network Hospital is helping your neighbor in the most literal sense.

Bailey with a Miracle Kid from HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital at IlliniThon’s 2017 Dance Marathon.
IlliniThon was recognized with the Excellence in Service Award from the University of Illinois.


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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