How Dance Marathons Transformed Me

May 22, 2015
Topics: Dance Marathons, Riley Kid Story

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Brandi Blakley with Dr. Roberta Hibbard

When I was a freshman at IUPUI, I took the Myers Briggs personality test. I was an INTP (Introvert, iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiving). I didn’t mind speaking to people one-on-one but I couldn’t have imagined ever walking on stage and talking to a lot of people.

Then, I started speaking at Riley Dance Marathons, and I really opened up. My first Riley Dance Marathon was IUPUI’s Jagathon. When I was asked to tell my Riley story on stage, the students in the crowd stood still in awe, listening through my entire jumbled (and very nervous) speech. I walked off stage to an outpouring of hugs and “we’re proud of you’s.”

That moment was the start of a new journey. I learned that I didn’t really know a whole lot about my life, but, after praying a lot about what I should do, I received the help of Trisha Shepherd from Riley Children’s Foundation and Jeremy Brilliant from WTHR. I not only learned about my own story, but I was able share it in a way that could inspire others to try to make a difference. My story of surviving child abuse (with the help of Riley child protection program physicians including Dr. Roberta Hibbard) was featured in Riley Messenger Magazine and in a television news report.

Once this all happened, all during my first year of college, I knew this was what I wanted. I changed my major to psychology because I wanted to work with children, and I reached out to other Riley Dance Marathons and kept speaking. I went to different schools as well as groups such as the Lions Club in Vincennes, American Legion events and Masonic family gatherings to share my story. I have become an advocate for child abuse awareness. I work hard learning the statistics, causes, and state information about child abuse. I speak about this information and how we need to stand up and make a difference.

Now as a graduate from IUPUI, I retook that Myers Briggs test. Today I am an ENTJ (Extrovert, iNtuitive, Thinking, and Judging). This test shows how much I have grown in terms of helping people, becoming more open, and being more positive with everyone. I believe that I owe this growth to that freshman year, Riley Hospital, and my fiancé, Tomek.  

During my freshman year at IUPUI, I would have never thought I would speak in front of a large crowd. However, this year I was selected as the commencement speaker for IUPUI and I spoke to over 15,000 attendees, 6,500 students from six different schools! I feel blessed and honored to have this experience and again know it was only possible because of this growth I have completed over the past four years.

Participating in Dance Marathons with Riley and sharing my Riley story publicly has completely changed me as a person. These Dance Marathons have been an amazing adventure for me in self-growth and self-knowledge. They have given me a way to try to make a difference in someone else’s life and know that I actually can. 

Now that I am an IUPUI graduate, I will be completing the Master’s in Clinical Psychology program at University of Indianapolis (UIndy) and plan on continuing for my PsyD. I plan on connecting to their Riley Dance Marathon and still speaking at others as much as possible. I don’t want to stop my connection to Riley Hospital because it truly has made me the person I am today!

Brandi Blakley

Brandi graduated from IUPUI May 10, 2015 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology with dual concentrations in Clinical Psychology and the Psychology of Addictions, and two minors, in Health Education and Social Work: Family Life. Her goal is to complete an advanced degree and eventually practice child and adolescent psychology on the eastside of Indianapolis. She and her fiancé, Tomek, are planning a July 2015 wedding.

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