Our Management Team spent three days representing DM at FSU at the Dance Marathon Leadership Convention in Indianapolis. Here's an inside scoop...
from the perspective of Andie Garcia, Executive Director:
Friday was the kickoff to what would come to be an incredibly rewarding and inspiring weekend. After a full day of traveling, we met downstairs in our hotel to have what felt like the sweetest of reunions after an entire summer of meetings through a computer screen. Then, I was off to represent the Southeast region in promotional videos for Miracle Network Dance Marathon, sharing the mission of Dance Marathon programs across the nation and what makes our cause extraordinary.
Once I wrapped up filming, our team met with Taylor Dietrich, Senior Manager for the Southeast area, who guided us through what to expect, questions we should be asking, and how to get the most out of this weekend. After this brief and personal introduction to the conference, we headed to the main ballroom for the general opening session. Imagine over 950 students and advisors from 190 campuses across the nation coming together for the first time at this much anticipated conference. The room was electric; from students reuniting with friends from other campuses to miracle children dancing their hearts out, it was clear that this weekend would be nothing less than exceptional. As programming began, keynote speakers from Miracle Network Dance Marathon welcomed and introduced us to the first of many presentations throughout the weekend.
Then began the first award ceremony. It’s almost impossible to explain the feelings and emotions we felt when our campaign release video for #UpToUs started playing on the screen for a room of over 950 people. As we sat in complete awe, staff explained how this campaign transformed DM at FSU and the magnetic effect it had on our campus. The walk from the very back of the room to the stage to accept our Campaign Activation Award felt like it was in slow motion; the roar of applause and the standing ovation immediately made us realize that everything we do in our community and on our campus has a ripple effect across the country.
Finally, the much anticipated shirt swap began. Immediately, madness ensued as students stood on chairs to auction off their program’s shirts for others. One girl shoved 7 shirts my way for one of our UpToUs tank tops. While anyone will admit that this swap tends to get overwhelming, the idea of it warms my heart; programs supporting other programs all across the nation, uniting us all under one mission, #FTK. I am now the proud owner of an Indiana University and University of South Carolina Dance Marathon shirt.
from the perspective of Tirzha Herman, Finance Director:
Of the three-day conference, Saturday was the most jam-packed day. It began with a networking breakfast that allowed all attendees to talk and share ideas with their counterparts from other schools. Shortly following breakfast, Morgaan, Emily, and I presented to a board of managers and CMN officials on pitching a potential corporate sponsor and how we could learn to improve our presentation and brand.
After the presentation, the day began. Every 20 minutes with a 10 minute break in between, there were presentations from a variety of schools. I attended mainly finance-based sessions including engaging our community on push days, retention and positive fundraising. I also presented on behalf of DM at FSU on the success of Donor Drive triggered notifications and how they contributed to consistent fundraising this past year leading up to the marathon.
After lunch, the sessions became more intense. Many of the sessions were tailored to the stewardship in all forms which is essential to the success of any program. During these sessions, I found many opportunities to network with other schools. I conversed with Dance Marathon at the University of Florida’s Finance Director, VOLthon (University of Tennessee) VP of Finance, a multitude of Buckeyethon’s (Ohio State University) Finance board, and more. We all shared amazing ideas on how to improve each other’s programs by sharing our strengths and our areas of improvement in order to make this year even better.
Following these advanced sessions was the best part of the evening: dinner and the Morale/Line Dance showcase! Allison Holker and her husband, Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss, have been long-time ambassadors and supporters of CMN, and we were extremely lucky to have Allison host the showcase. Every school had amazing line dances that showcased creativity, enjoyment, and pep.
from the perspective of Azia Williams, Dancer Relations Director:
Sunday, I woke up knowing that it was the last day of the conference, so I really wanted to get everything that I possibly could out of these last few hours surrounded by all these awesome people. The first thing I did was meet three members of Terp Thon’s executive board. Terp Thon is the Dance Marathon program for the University of Maryland; they ended up winning the Alumni Engagement Award later that same day. We exchanged ideas on delegate programs and dancer-centric recruitment.
Next up, I joined the rest of Management at the Southeastern Area Meeting. In this breakout session, all Dance Marathon programs within the Southeastern United States were able to collaborate and talk about best practices and how this last year went in general. We celebrated our trimpuths, talked about the future of our community, and had the honor of giving a presentation on Engaging the Unengaged.
The middle of the day marked the official end of the conference, and with it, we were more formally introduced to the sponsor of DMLC, Aflac, and shown some practices to ensure diversity and inclusion.
This wonderful day was capped off when it was announced that Dance Marathon at FSU received the Ryan White Award for Overcoming Adversity. This was an incredibly special time because it felt like the best kind of victory. We were being recognized for our ability rise above even when it seemed impossible. Together, we decided that we were ready for whatever battles came our way. We always knew we could do it, and in that moment, it seemed like the rest of the world did, too.
Andie Garcia, Executive Director: I knew going into DMLC that I would have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from leaders across the nation fighting for a common goal, and my conversations this weekend truly reinforced the idea that people follow people, not numbers.
Emily Castellano, External Director: I came into DMLC wanting to network and learn from other programs and I came out of DMLC with a stronger purpose, a ton of ideas to better our program, and a larger support system that spreads across the country.
Morgaan Jessell, Marathon Director: DMLC was an incredible experience that further reinforced the strongest lesson I’ve taken from my time in Dance Marathon and that is that we all as individuals have the power to make a difference in the life of a child that needs it most - across the country, year after year, college students come together to bring awareness to those who need it most. I’m so happy Florida State is entering its 24th year of this meaningful tradition.
Tirzha Herman, Finance Director: DMLC was an incredible experience where almost one thousand students came together all for the same cause to celebrate everyone’s achievements, progress, growth and potential, and I can’t wait to see what the year has in store not only for us at DM at FSU, but for the 300+ other programs as well.
Azia Williams, Dancer Relations Director:
So many of us are working toward a common goal and rarely get to see each other, and even though I won’t be in direct contact with them, I am ceaselessly inspired by the friends I made at DMLC.
Kristy Potter, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Advisor: It was amazing to see hundreds of students come together For The Kids to celebrate each other successes and leave with best practices and ideas to take back to their own programs.