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Syracuse University Senior Receives 2018 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 2018 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: During my past three years involved with OttoTHON at Syracuse University, I personally fundraised $2,969.10 and held the following positions: Executive Director (December 2015 – December 2016); Internal Director (December 2016 – December 2017); Dancer Relations Chair (February 2015 – December 2015); Morale Committee (August 2014 – February 2015); Dancer Relations Committee (August 2014 – February 2015)

Campus/Community Involvement:

Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital Advisory Council: Community Board Member (November 2017 – May 2018)

First Year Players: Public Relations Chair (May 2017 – May 2018), Public Outreach Chair (September 2015 – May 2017), Performer Addams Family (April 2015)

Office of Admissions–Syracuse University: University 100, Student Ambassador (January 2015 – May 2018); Senior Intern (August 2017 – May 2018)

Upstate Foundation–Upstate Medical University: Communications Intern (August 2017 – January 2018)

Curated Care: Special Events Communication Intern (May 2017 – September 2017)

Delta Gamma Fraternity: Director of Foundations (May 2015 – May 2016); Representative of Delta Gamma Junior-PanHellenic Council (September 2015 – May 2016); Rho Gamma Recruitment (Spring 2017)

Awards/Recognition: Accepted the Orange Circle Award in OttoTHON’s honor (Spring 2016)

Post-Graduation Plans: During my time with OttoTHON, I realized that my work ethic was at its best when helping others. I learned that whether I was empowering teammates to reach for new heights or getting to work with one of OttoTHON’s miracle kids, I knew that helping others needed to be a part of my career. During the fall semester of my sophomore year, I added my second major, Human Development and Family Science. In just a few weeks, I will be the first-ever student to be graduating with a double major in Communication and Rhetorical Studies and Human Development and Family Science on a Child Life Specialist track, both of which have helped me immensely when it comes to Dance Marathon. In the future, I hope to create events and programming within hospitals or foundations that help others for the better. I have a drive for doing good for others.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

I sat on the crunchy examination table while my mom sat on the only chair below me and my dad stood over us both. The room was bare besides the few medical tools hanging eye level with me. The room had no windows and the air was still. The walls were white. Three knocks at the door and my pediatrician came in. “WPW” he said. I was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson- White syndrome after I told my mom that I felt like I had popcorn popping out of my chest. For ten years of my childhood, my heart had a little extra murmur. During those years, I sat in many rooms with plain white walls. No color, no life. Just white. I was told I needed to have heart surgery my sophomore year of high school. The room was almost identical to the room I was diagnosed in. No windows, still air and once again, plain white walls. When I first got involved with Dance Marathon and saw pictures of our local CMN Hospital, I couldn’t believe my eyes. But it wasn’t until the first time walking into Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital that my reason for why I danced became real. I saw not one plain white wall. I saw a place that used to be scary to me turn into a place where things were going to be okay. No child should have to go into a room that feels and looks empty and bare during a time when they feel empty and bare inside. I dance for color and for lights. I dance for multi-sensory rooms. I dance for extra chairs and windows in rooms. And I personally dance for no more white walls.

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

To me, Dance Marathon is about heart and about being able to see, create and help make miracles every day. Students should get involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon on their campus to find their Zach’s. My friend Zach is one of just five children worldwide with a form of Mucolipidosis that caused him to stop growing at the age of 2. Today, he is 17!!! He has surpassed the life expectancy for children with this awful disease but to me, Zach is my hero. He loves converse, Michael Jackson and his mom. Zach and I have become great pals over these few years, but when I started my journey with Dance Marathon, I would have never thought I’d become this close to someone I barely knew. Now, both our eyes light up when we see each other. I’ve visited him at his place of work before. He and I planned a surprised for the executive board together and I’ve been by his side while he was at Upstate. My friendship with Zach has made me a better human. It has taught me to keep fighting and to always, always smile. I keep the ribbon Zach gave me on my backpack to remind me to always keep going. Zach continues to show me how to live life to the fullest and be a little silly on the way. My relationship with Zach and other patients and families has allowed me to realize just how precious life is. Students should get involved in MNDM to find their Zach’s.

Laurie Beth with her friend Zach at OttoTHON.

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

I remember blowing up balloons for the first-ever OttoTHON. I remember being assigned to 2 different committees for the event and I remember the 3:00 am mark thinking “how can I stand any longer?” Those moments are all still so vivid. Flash forward 3 years and our events are now held in the largest multi-purpose room on campus, we have funding to order balloons that come already blown up and restaurants reach out to us because they want to be a part of our movement. After my sophomore fall semester, I received a phone call that would forever change my life. The creator of OttoTHON said she wanted to pass it down to me. What an honor it was, but the worries and pressure slowly sunk in. I knew that this year was either going to make or break OttoTHON. We were two events in and this year needed to be the year we turned as an organization on campus. Coming back from winter break, we were in full swing. Myself and the steering committee generated a team that was going to make this turn happen. But for me, as the leader, that turn wasn’t about raising more dollars; it was connecting our university to the cause. I knew we needed to be able to instill the cause connection between our miracle kids, the hospital and the university. In November of 2016, OttoTHON had an 70% increase from our last event and officially became a six-figure event. The awareness that OttoTHON had around it was something special that year. I saw and led an organization move from the small women’s building gym to the elite campus location to hold an event. I saw and led an organization that the chancellor now knows by name. I saw and led a movement that our team was proud of. What an honor it has been to lead and see this movement grow from ground up.

OttoTHON’s fundraising total reveal from November 2017.

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

OttoTHON came into my life when I had just lost my first passion. Jazz squares and center stage spot lights were what I dreamed about. But in my junior year musical in high school, I hemorrhaged my vocal cord. After months of vocal therapy and multiple college auditions later, I realized that that fantasy was long gone. I thought I lost my passion. But in reality, I was just starting to cultivate a new passion and a new voice. Dance Marathon gave me my voice back. It gave me my voice back at time that I was struggling to find it. It gave me my voice to empower others to want to do good and be proud of their work. It taught me how to lead in a way that people wanted to follow and be a part of. On a campus with over 300 student organizations, having your voice heard can be hard. But with passion and power and the greatest cause behind my voice, I got people to listen. Dance Marathon gave me my voice of creativity and positivity. The skills that I have developed through dance marathon have been learning how to advocate passionately for a cause, empowering students to believe in themselves and instilling core values within a campus. I am honored to say that I will leave OttoTHON having worked on every level of leadership. And I know OttoTHON will continue, but I will leave knowing that I left my hand print. But more than that, Dance Marathon taught me the skill to empower others to find their will and focus on doing good.

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

Across the nation, 170 hospitals stand representing the same core value. As someone who knows what it feels like to be just another medical file, CMN Hospitals make each child feel important. The core value of CMN Hospitals is the kids. In the world we live in today, having similar values with a large group of people can be difficult to find. And that’s what makes CMN Hospitals so special. They are 170 hospitals all fighting for the kids. From the theme floors, to the unbelievable child life specialists, to the toy rooms, to the multi-sensory rooms, to the incredible pediatric special programing, CMN Hospitals make a place where children are constantly feeling uncomfortable a little more comfortable. With all of that being said, CMN Hospitals provide the top of the line research and care as well. In the words of my friend Zach’s mom, “This hospital (Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital) makes a not-so-great problem become my sons favorite place to be.”

Laurie Beth dancing at her first OttoTHON Dance Marathon event.


Miracle Network Dance Marathon is an international movement, involving over 400 colleges, universities and K-12 schools 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 $220 million–ensuring that no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.

Learn more about Miracle Network Dance Marathon:

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