(Gallery photos by Chad Osburn/UGA)
More than 1,000 students and community members strapped hospital bands on their wrists and raised $1,144,453.19 for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta during UGA Miracle’s 24 hour Dance Marathon Saturday and Sunday in Tate Grand Hall. This is the fourth consecutive year that this student organization has raised more than $1 million.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
UGA Miracle, the largest student-run organization at the university, seeks to encourage the families of patients and financially support the Rehabilitation Services and Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.
“The first $1 million raised directly funds Rehab Services and all additional funds support the Aflac Cancer Center,” said Lydia George, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta program coordinator.
This year, UGA Miracle focused on raising money for the aquatic therapy pool under construction in Scottish Rite Hospital.
“Evidence has shown this type of therapy can improve function, endurance, strength, balance, mechanical stability, flexibility and gait as well as provide pain relief for some patients,” George said.
The therapy pool will help Scottish Rite care for an even larger array of patients, and it is made possible by funding from UGA Miracle, George said.
To fundraise at Dance Marathon, attendees invited friends and family to sponsor them during the event. Some attendees committed to standing for 24 hours to honor patients.
“We are standing for those who can’t stand,” said Edie Threlkeld, UGA Miracle communications director.
“Have you ever tried to stand for 24 hours?” said Kelli Hopkins, Miracle family mom. “We have three children who will never stand on this earth, so this challenge has a huge impact on my heart,” she said.
At the conclusion of Dance Marathon, there is a ceremony called Circle of Hope where the Miracle kids and parents cut the hospital bands off our wrists, she explained.
“It would not be Dance Marathon without our Miracle families,” Threlkeld said.
Miracle Family Pals
The Miracle Family Relations Committee pairs Miracle students and families to spend time together through a program called Family Pals, where Miracle student, Krista Smith, met the Hopkins family.
“Being a Family Pal to the Hopkins family is one of the biggest privileges and most special opportunities at UGA,” said Krista Smith, Miracle Family Relations committee student.
Mother Kelli Hopkins said her family’s first experience with Children’s was 26 years ago, when she was told her daughter, Mary Elizabeth would not live past the age of 3.
“Thanks to God’s plan of blessing us with the wonderful doctors, nurses and staff, she lived to be 21,” she said.
She said three of her four children were treated at Children’s, and she is now the “mommie,” as she and the children spell it, of two angels.
Smith said the Hopkins family is the strongest unit of individuals she has ever known, and their daughter, Marlee Anne, 16, has become like a little sister to her.
“Whether it is working on homework, sending each other encouraging messages or watching her perform with her theater group, I am constantly blown away with how much I am learning from her strength, kindness and positivity,” said Smith.
Each Hopkins family member champions their faith and lives as a role model to the Family Pal group, she said.
“They are the most selfless people I know, and we are always blown away at how much they serve us when we’re the ones who are here to serve them,” said Smith. “It just shows exactly how incredible they are.”
“We ask the students to come and see, to meet our family, hear our story, be part of our life, and most of all to know the importance of having a tier one pediatric health facility in our state,” said Mike Hopkins, dad. “Miracle’s efforts can sustain this not only for the current families but those to come.”
Krista Smith explained how fundraising can be hard for college students, but it does not take much to feel motivated to fundraise at Dance Marathon when she thinks about the Hopkins, her committee members, and the hospital.
“I don’t really need much convincing that this cause is worth fighting for,” she said. “Marlee Anne alone raised $6,000 for her brother, Abe, $21,000 for her sister, Mary Elizabeth, and $18,000 for her sister, Michala, so that alone inspires me to hustle for it.”
“Please know, every dollar makes a difference at Children’s,” said Kelli Hopkins. “You never know when the money you raise may be what gives a family just one more day with their child.”
“When it gets hard to ask one more person to give to the cause, remember the impact you are having on lives,” she said.
For information about UGA Miracle visit: https://www.ugamiracle.org