Why I’m Changing Kids’ Health to Change the Future

Around this time last year, we heard about COVID-19 entering the United States and the world slowly started to shut down. Schools shut down, small businesses shut down, global brands shut down — Everything stopped for a pandemic. But do you know what didn’t stop? Childhood illness. You can’t decide when childhood illness can come and go, and you certainly can’t change a cancer diagnosis when a pandemic hits. What we can change, however, is the future for childhood illness.

CMN YouTube Video

Children’s Miracle Network has been fighting to end childhood illness since the early 1980s and today, has 170 local member hospitals that support their efforts. Each local CMN hospital raises awareness and funds for research and life-saving equipment to hopefully one day shut down childhood illness. About 300 college campuses around the United States also work to support CMN by hosting something called Dance Marathon —a year-long effort that ends with an event that can last for over 24 hours straight of students standing. Before I get into why the storyline in the above commercial changed my perspective, I need to get into the ‘why’ behind my support for Children’s Miracle Network.

When I was a junior in high school, students from the University of Central Florida visited our student government class to get us involved in UCF’s Dance Marathon, Knightthon. The local Children’s Miracle Network hospital that the university supported was Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando, Florida. For the next two years, our student government hosted a “mini-marathon” in efforts to raise money and awareness that would be included in UCF’s overall donation to the cause for those years. I was involved, but my contribution was maybe $300; I hadn’t felt like I could personally make a change. Fast forward to when I started my freshman year at the University of Florida, I got involved in their Dance Marathon which supported UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. The hospital was adjacent to campus and was walking distance from my dorm. I slowly got closer to personally making a change and was able to see the change as it was happening. Over the course of my four years involved with the University of Florida’s Dance Marathon, I was part of the Emerging Leaders Program, a Dancer Relations Captain, and then an Assistant Director for two consecutive years. The organization was so vital to the course of my college career and truly impacted my life. The millions of the dollars raised and the thousands of children saved was my reality, thanks to DM at UF. Throughout those four years I was able to visit the hospital to see the children we were helping, create programming and events for the entire student body, raise over $9,000, and attend three Dance Marathon events. I would have attended four, but COVID-19 shut down our event only a month before it’s due date. The canceling of the in-person event struck a chord with a huge portion of the student body, the local high schools involved, the hospital, but most importantly, the sick children who attend the event. Hearts were broken and morale was low, but the organization was able to put on a virtual event to continue to raise awareness and funds.

Now let’s go back to the video: The video starts out by showing just a few of the thousands of children who are impacted by childhood illness each year by presenting their various medical conditions and how it negatively impacts them. Some of the children included experience the unimaginable and they have scars to prove it. After showing their conditions, CMN shows how medical advancements and devices can change their lives and help them be just like any other kid. Kids are running around, playing sports, and smiling — something that isn’t very common among hospital patients. The video continues to show children who are in the hospital but begins to show how others can make a change to help those children. Doctors, donors, and college students are now part of the story to show why the children in the hospital can receive life-saving treatments. It focuses on the change behind the cause, the positive change for children, the change for donors, and the change for the future of medicine. The Children’s Miracle Network video encouraged viewers to want to be part of that change by showing the who, the why, and the how. “Change kids’ health to change the future” the voice over read. That line encouraged me to continue to be part of that change and take action.

The video was posted in June 2020 which meant it was after my last (virtual) Dance Marathon event and it was at a time when the world was still shut down. The story included clips from multiple Dance Marathon events hosted at various college campuses, and seeing those clips gave me a sense of nostalgia. I dedicated so much time and effort into Dance Marathon at the University of Florida throughout my undergraduate years but the video made me quickly realize my work had just begun. DM at UF has an Alumni Association that has a strong following of individuals who want to continue to help children in need. As a result of watching the Children’s Miracle Network video, I registered for the association, spread awareness by posting on my social media accounts, and began raising funds for the 2021 DM at UF event. My fight to shut down childhood illness prevails despite the world being in shut down. I’ve realized that changing kids health and changing the future can start (or continue) by simply watching a video.

Graduate student at the University of Florida