Born in June 2014, Gracie entered this world in silence.
She spent the first month of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where she was diagnosed and treated for necrotizing enterocolitis, a digestive infection that doctors thought she might never recover from. Despite making a full recovery and being released from the hospital, Gracie was unable to keep on any weight. Eventually, her family discovered she had five holes in her heart and needed to undergo surgery.
Over two years later, Gracie has a feeding tube, but she’s slowly starting to eat orally and learning to use a sippy cup. Gracie still has a long journey ahead of her, but she is making positive steps every day.
This year, Gracie was chosen to be the Honors Program’s miracle child for their Dance Marathon team. Although members of the team have not gotten to meet her or her family yet, they are hoping to get their chance soon. Children like Gracie are the reason the members of the Honors Program’s Dance Marathon team are so passionate about what they do.
Dance Marathon is a yearlong fundraiser that culminates in a 26.2 hour event where students dance and stay standing the entire time, as a show of solidarity for those that cannot. The money raised for the event is donated to a hospital under the Children’s Miracle Network, which is Shands Children’s Hospital for the teams at UF. The Honors Program team might be one of the smaller groups on campus, but they are all wholeheartedly committed to the cause.
The team first made an appearance at the 2013 Dance Marathon. Since then, they have been a permanent fixture at the event. At the moment, the Honors Dance Marathon team has raised $3,045, but that number is rising as members seek out donations in any way possible.
Whether they are planning fundraising nights at local restaurants, moonlighting as personal chauffeurs or just asking for donations donations on Facebook, everything that they do is “For the Kids.” Their goal is to raise $7,500 before the event begins on March 25.
Robyn Cotney, a junior biology major, serves as the delegate for the Honors Dance Marathon team this year. She has been a dancer for the team for the past two years, but this year she is taking charge of the show. She frequently attends delegate meetings that focus on the event on a larger scale, as well as organizing events and fundraisers within her own team.
Cotney loves going to the event and seeing all the children that they are helping through donations. “It’s just great to see the joy on their faces and see that this is what we helped with,” she shares.
After participating in Dance Marathon for two years in high school as both a dancer and a member of the executive team, freshman psychology major Corie Evans decided to get involved with the Honors team this year. Working with the event is an extremely rewarding experience for her, especially since the organization has helped her family in a time of need.
“My family was also impacted by the Children’s Miracle Network at Shands Hospital when my brother was battling leukemia several years ago,” Evans explains.
By working with Dance Marathon, Evans is able to give back to the organization that did so much for her family. Dance Marathon is a massive event at the University of Florida with numerous teams that Evans could have joined, but she chose the Honors team. In doing so, Evans and other members of the team have found a close-knit group of people who are determined to make a difference in the lives of children. She plans on continuing to participate in Dance Marathon throughout her time at UF and encourages any Honors students that are interested to get involved.
Photo by Sofia Atzrodt