"For The Kids!" Four Dance Marathon Coordinators share the moments that drive their passion

September 25, 2014
Topics: Dance Marathons, Riley Staff Profiles

Dance Marathon
Alyssa Vinluan (right) with fellow Saint Mary's College Dance Marathon committee member Lindsay Ellis.

Today, September 25th, 2014, is National Dance Marathon Day. It’s a chance for us to celebrate and honor of the hundreds of thousands of high school and college students who “dance for those who can’t.”

Today, four Dance Marathon Coordinators at Riley Children’s Foundation share the stories of how they fell in love with the Riley Dance Marathon program.

Alyssa Vinluan

I got involved with Dance Marathon during my freshman year at Saint Mary’s College. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and after my first Dance Marathon, there was no turning back.

I was involved as a committee member during my freshman and sophomore years, then as an executive my junior year before serving as a VP my senior year. Dance Marathon changed my life, including my career focus. I jumped at the chance to intern with Riley Children’s Foundation after graduating, and then accepted a full-time position the following year. I feel blessed that I am able to live out my passion every day as I head into work.

To me, DM students represent the good that comes out of giving yourself to a bigger cause.

There is one DM experience that really stands out to me. During my senior year, we invited a new Riley family in the South Bend area to share their story at our Dance Marathon. The dad was holding his baby daughter, Emily, in his arms. She had just come back from another visit to Riley Hospital to treat tumors on her kidneys. She was the tiniest thing with these beautiful, big brown eyes.

He walked on the stage to share Emily’s story, still holding her in his arms, and he choked up. He said he had never shared her story before, and that there was only one reason he could find the strength to share her story now: he saw all of the students standing on their feet for his daughter and for so many other children facing their own battles.

That moment was very powerful for me; it summed up why I love DM. It’s those moments that really drive my passion for Dance Marathon and the mission of Riley Children’s Foundation.

Samantha Lame

I started my dance marathon journey when I was a sophomore in high school. I attended Bloomington High School South’s first Dance Marathon. That is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I joined a committee for Bloomington H.S. South DM my junior year and then became the Director of Fundraising my senior year. My DM journey continued at the collegiate level, where I served as Special Event Executive, then VP of Finance, and finally President of Purdue University Dance Marathon. I now have the amazing privilege of working for Riley Children’s Foundation and helping students embark on their own Dance Marathon journeys.

The families who attend our marathons are adored by our DM students. The relationships I have developed with these Riley families throughout the years are incredibly special to me. The fact that they have let me into their lives and supported me as I worked to support them is a gift.

One memory as a DM student I’ll never, ever forget is going with a Riley patient named Jackson to his second-to-last outpatient chemotherapy treatment at Riley Hospital. I watched as Jackson called his nurses his “girlfriends,” as his doctor laughed and joked with him, and as he pushed his treatment from the syringe into his port. That experience showed me just what a special place Riley truly is.

Each day I wake up and get to witness the most selfless young people give their money, time, energy, and love to a cause they care about. Watching them work together makes my whole team at Riley Children’s Foundation so proud of the DM culture and our Riley DM family.

Not only are we raising funds for an amazing hospital-we are spreading a culture of philanthropy to young people around the state.

Katie Glesing

This fall will mark 12 years since I fell in love with Dance Marathon. As a freshman at Bishop Chatard High School, I wanted to get involved with a number of things. When someone told me there was a way I could give back to the kids, my peers, at Riley just by lacing up my dancing shoes (and doing some fundraising of course) I was sold.

At the time, Bishop Chatard was one of three Dance Marathon schools in the state. We now have over 60 schools across Indiana giving back to Riley through Dance Marathon. It’s been incredible to watch the growth of this program, and to be a part of it starting in high school, then at Indiana University, and now  at Riley Children’s Foundation.

My DM journey is filled with joys: watching other students fall in love with Dance Marathon; seeing their ideas grow and come to life; and watching them make their own memories at their events.

Our Riley kids have said that Dance Marathons arebetter than Christmas, and that the students are like brothers and sisters to them. I feel so lucky to have been a part of that gift to them, to watch our Dance Marathon schools give that joy to our Riley kiddos every year.

Karlee Hepp

My love for dance marathon started my freshman year of college at Purdue University. I went to the call-out meeting to get involved in something on campus, unaware of how much this organization would impact my life.

My first dance marathon was magical.The passion, love and commitment from the students was unlike anything I had ever experienced. For those 18 hours, everyone standing in that gym went from being complete strangers to family. I took on the role of special events director my sophomore and junior years. Each year, I got to know our Riley families more personally and felt even more connected to Riley Hospital for Children.

During my senior year I took on the position of president of PUDM. Today, I have the privilege of continuing my passion as a Dance  Marathon Coordinator with Riley Children’s Foundation. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to work with passionate student leaders every day and to serve Riley Hospital for Children, a place truly dedicated to patient and family centered care.

To me, Riley Dance Marathons represent a belief in something bigger than yourself: hope for children everywhere, and a community of individuals who believe in the power of FTK (For The Kids)!

Riley Blogger

The Riley Blog is written and/or edited by members of the Riley Children's Foundation Communications Staff.

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