As it's been just over two weeks since I participated in Loras College's 11th Dance Marathon event, I can't help but look back and reflect on all I've seen this organization do for myself, different communities and the country as a whole just within the past two years. I'm only an incoming junior, but I'm anxious to see what Dance Marathon can do in my last two years, also!

For those of you who are unaware, Miracle Network Dance Marathon (MNDM) is a national organization that benefits the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, which are found all around the United States. MNDM is a non-profit that has organizations set up on college campuses. There are over 350 Dance Marathon programs and 200,000 college students that participate nationwide. Each of these organizations on different campuses spend all year fundraising for their event. Participants raise money by planning and hosting fundraisers, going into their communities seeking corporations to become sponsors and doing individual fundraising. At the end of each campus' fundraising year, they have a 12 to 40 hour event where they pledge to stand for the entire duration of the event in celebration of their fundraising efforts. All of the money raised by a school's organization goes to their local Children's Miracle Network Hospital. All of this money benefits the kiddos that stay at these hospitals in various ways: medical equipment, games and so much more.

Dance Marathon is For The Kids. Everything we do is FTK. But, what often goes unnoticed are the effects Dance Marathon has on us as college students. The world is so much bigger than just ourselves, and this organization is showing students that. The Dance Marathon organization has changed my life and how I see the world, so I wanted to share how. In the past two years, Dance Marathon has:

1. Helped me appreciate my bad days more.

I've heard so many stories from our miracle families about what they go through while in the hospital. Through those stories, I realized that even on my bad days, I still have a lot to be thankful for. Even when I have a bad day, I get to go to bed, sleep it off and wake up with a new attitude. But, these kiddos that we work with can't just sleep off their illnesses. They wake up every day, still partaking in their battle. This is constant reminder to me and it keeps me pushing and striving through my bad days.


2. Introduced me to new friends who I'll have forever.

I've met some of my best friends through Dance Marathon. When working with people throughout the entire year, you get to know them pretty well. Through late nights and long meetings, I've become close with some amazing, inspiring and creative people that I hope to remain friends with for the rest of my life. They make me want to be a better person, and that's something that everyone should seek for within friendship. Luckily for me, I found it through Dance Marathon.

3. Helped me appreciate other organizations more.

While at a fundraiser, someone said to me, "I'm glad you guys do this in your free time. I mean, someone has to do it, and I'm glad you do." In reality, someone needs to fight every bad thing in the world: mental illness, racism, etc. But, we can't expect every person to fight. Individuals have passions in certain areas, and mine happens to be within childhood illness. Others have passions elsewhere, and I respect that. To me, it doesn't really matter who's fighting for what, as long as we're all fighting for a better tomorrow. I've experienced the amount of work that goes into volunteering for a Dance Marathon event, and I have so much respect for anyone who puts their effort into something they're passionate about, too! I appreciate other organizations for what they do more than I ever have.

4. Shown me how a true community works together.

Each organization on each campus supports miracle families from around that area. We have around 40 families registered with LCDM, and they're all so incredible. With them, we create our college's Dance Marathon community. The thing about a community, though, is that everyone supports each other: the support is mutual. We support our families through the work that we do throughout the year, and they reach out to us in our times of need. Through everything they go through, they still take time to show us that they're here for us. This year at Loras, there was a fire in one of our residence halls. Our families, who have their children to take care of while also living their day-to-day lives, contacted the affected students to make sure they had somewhere to live and everything they needed. How incredible is that? Yes, we are there for them, but they're also here for us.

5. Shown me that I do have the power to change the world.

As college students, we have a freedom that we lack at home. Outside of classes, we have a lot of free time. A lot of students choose to get a job, watch Netflix, work out or various other things. Now I'm not saying those things are bad or unworthy of our time, because I make time for those things, too! But no one's forcing me to be involved with Dance Marathon in the free time I have. I choose to. I choose to spend my time fighting for kids who shouldn't fight alone. A lot of times when you're young, you hear the phrase, "You can change the world!" That's true, but sometimes its hard to believe that we can do that on our own. But when we take all of those college students that are using the minimal time they have to fight for those kids and put all of those efforts together, we see change in the world. In 2015 alone, MNDM altogether raised over $26,834,682. That number speaks volumes, and I'm honored to have been a part of it.

6. Given me the opportunity to fight for true miracles and heroes.

This is one of our miracle kiddos, Christopher, and this year he is the University of Iowa Children's Hospital Iowa Champion, because he is a true champion! His family shared their story at our event, and told us that he wasn't supposed to supposed to live for more than an hour. He is a true miracle. Today, he's 11 years old, and I'm honored that I have the opportunity to fight for him.