In the mid-1980s, Arnold and Winnie Palmer toured the newly opened neonatal intensive care unit and pediatrics wing of Orlando Regional Medical Center. Following the tour, Mr. Palmer was said to have commented: “We can do better than this — we should do better than this — for the children of our community.”
It’s a quote that’s been shared again and again over the years, but this year in particular, those words resonated with a group of students at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Students who weren’t alive when these words were spoken, or even when the pediatric hospital opened in 1989.
These students were charged with planning the 22nd annual Knight-Thon, UCF’s Miracle Network Dance Marathon, and felt it necessary to bring the focus back to these words – and the beginning of the hospital’s legacy.
Ingrained in the tradition of Knight-Thon is the program’s annual Goal Reveal. On this day, the student leaders of Knight-Thon announce the monetary goal for the year to their campus and community, challenging every student to participate and help reach their goal. But daring to be different, the 2017-18 Knight-Thon Executive Board displayed blank signs where numbers would traditionally appear. They instead asked each student to “Leave Your Legacy” for the kids, whatever that legacy may be.
The Main Event
From that day in September, to the final moments of the main event on April 7th, the UCF campus embraced this call to action, the students chose to do more for the patients and families that rely on Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
They spent a year gaining leadership, teamwork, and nonprofit business experience while raising funds and awareness for Orlando Health Arnold Palmer. Through special events and peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, Knight-Thon participants became skilled fundraisers and dedicated philanthropists. Gaining support from Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, the presenting sponsor of Knight-Thon 2018, as well as a number of other local businesses and organizations, this year’s leaders set the foundation for partnerships in the community.
All of their hard work culminated with a final event where 1,500 UCF students gathered together in the CFE Arena to stand on their feet for 20 hours – to stand for the kids who can’t. Throughout the event, participants were able to meet patient families treated at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer, participate in games and dancing, enjoy live entertainment and celebrate their successes, all leading up to the moment when the Knight-Thon Executive Board revealed their annual fundraising total - $1,584,698.22 for the kids.
Shattering their previous year’s total amount by more than $330,000, their efforts this year made them the sixth highest fundraising Miracle Network Dance Marathon in the country. This year’s leaders created a new culture around philanthropy and pediatric healthcare among the UCF community that will last beyond their years on campus. After all, what remains once you’ve left is the measuring stick by which to measure a legacy.
Dance Marathon isn’t just for college students! There is a city-wide program coming up on July 28th that you can take part in as an individual, with your company or organization, or as a volunteer. Visit floridamiracle.org or email [email protected] for more information.