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Hope College Senior Receives 2018 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award

From the thousands of graduating seniors who have participated in Miracle Network Dance Marathon at the approximately 300 colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada, twenty students were selected to receive the 2018 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award for making an exceptional impact within their Dance Marathon program, on their individual campus and for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. To see all of this year’s recipients, click here. 

Dance Marathon Involvement: As a freshman, I participated in my first Dance Marathon as a 24-hour dancer. For the next three years, I was a member of the 30-member executive team (Dream Team). As a sophomore, I was the Security Chair, overseeing many of the in-event logistics and organization. The next year, as a junior, I took on the role of Finance Chair, which involved oversight of general finances and the outreach to businesses for corporate gifts and sponsorships. Finally, as a senior, I had the honor of leading Dream Team as one of four executive directors. I filled the role of Finance Director, handling fundraising strategies, budgets, finance tracking, and other aspects of the financial goals of Hope College Dance Marathon 2018. During my involvement in Hope College Dance Marathon, I personally fundraised over $5,700.

Campus/Community Involvement:

Neighborhood Coordinator/RA: oversee a staff of RAs and approximately 80 residents in Hope College housing

Member of Volunteer Services Committee: organize events on and off campus that allow Hope College students to volunteer in their community

Immersion Trip Leader: organized and led a men’s group on a volunteering trip to rural Kentucky

-Nykerk Morale Coach: led a dozen play moralers through the month of October through the building of a set and the various traditions of the Nykerk Cup Competition, an +80 year old tradition at Hope College

Member of Omicron Delta Kappa: national leadership society

Post-Graduation Plans: After graduation, I am seeking full time work for an engineering firm with the primary goal of gaining experience in my field and making a positive impact in my immediate community through my work. Long term, I would like to work toward a Masters Degree and potentially a PhD in engineering, allowing me to return to academia. I would also like to go into non-profit work in developing nations, using my engineering expertise to help uplift the citizens of those nations through education and technology.

Why should people donate to their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals?

Money, like time, is a finite resource for us, particularly as college students. We constantly have to weigh where the best possible investments for our money are. To me, for the past four years and into the future, the best way for me to invest and be generous in my community is to give to my local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. I give because almost every child that walks through the doors of a children’s hospital would rather be somewhere else, doing something else. Seeing that these children’s hospitals are surpassing merely providing superb healthcare by holistically supporting children’s minds, souls and bodies reminds us of something important: these kids are defined by more than disease, and the hospitals ensure that they get to move past these difficult moments of uncertainty and pain in their lives to fully realize not only childhood, but all that life has to offer. People ought to give to their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals because there is no better long-term investment than ensuring that the children in our communities grow up to be everything they can be, happily and healthily. There are problems that for now, we cannot solve, but if we provide the opportunities for our kids to learn and grow, as each of them should, those problems cease to be insurmountable. When we are for the kids, we do something truly unselfish, because we are supporting a future we might not see, but can rest assured will be brighter, healthier, and better than what we see today.

Connor dancing with a Miracle Kid at Hope College Dance Marathon.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

The start of my participation in Dance Marathon is not particularly noble or flattering toward me: I had a crush on a girl. The girl I liked was required to participate in all 24 hours of our event, and I saw that as an opportunity. What better way is there to spend time with and make an impression on your crush than to raise money for a children’s hospital for 24 hours? Although my efforts did not lead to a successful relationship with that woman, it led to something even better.

During my first event, I opened myself up to the emotion and inspiration of the family stories, and I found a much better reason to dance. Every time I did work for my various positions within Dance Marathon or spent a late night planning, I remembered why I continued with Dance Marathon and will perpetually support it after graduation: not for one girl, but for two sisters. Libby and Ella are the two Miracle Kids with whom I was paired for all three of my years on our executive team. They are the embodiment of joy and, despite their youth, fountains of wisdom. They know why Dance Marathon matters because it directly affected their lives when they were both battling a rare cancer. They aren’t sick anymore, but they know that they can make a difference for those like them who still are, and so can I.

Conor prior to the announcement of Hope College’s 2018 fundraising total.

How has Dance Marathon impacted you as a student leader? What specific skills have you developed during your involvement?

Although Dance Marathon has not been my sole involvement during my four years at Hope College, it has undoubtedly been the piece of my college experience that has shaped my leadership and perspectives on my life and purpose the most. Dance Marathon exposed me to the truest bravery and perseverance I have ever seen and showed me that leadership is not always about grandiose gestures and large-scale successes. Oftentimes, leadership is all about conquering today and doing whatever it takes to make sure that those you are seeking to lead and inspire are able to flourish. Leadership, in my opinion, is best executed without pomp or flash, and has the greatest impact when it is done with humility and a desire not to hoard success, but rather to spread it out amongst every individual who strives to accomplish something meaningful together. In the end, leadership for Dance Marathon means keeping the spotlight on the kids.

Being a leader in my campus’s Dance Marathon program has taught me real skills in addition to the beliefs and passions that have been developed during my tenure. I have not only learned what style of leadership I consider to be most effective, but how to put it into action. My leadership roles within Dance Marathon have required me to learn how to constantly shift my methods of communication, and how to effectively relate to individuals in all corners of my campus. As such as large part of my life, Dance Marathon has also required me to learn how to strategically use all of the resources I have at hand, including time, personal connections, and all manner of other skills and opportunities. Finally, Dance Marathon has taught me an important lesson with an accompanying skill: sympathy isn’t enough. I have learned how to transform sympathy into empathy, and empathy into meaningful change, both personally and among those I seek to influence.

Why should students get involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon on their campus?

Of all the three hundred-plus college campuses that have Dance Marathon programs, there isn’t one that doesn’t make an immense and tangible impact in their community. Each year, thousands of children enter each of our local CMN Hospitals, and as college students, participating in Dance Marathon is one way for us to make a change on our campuses and in the world as a whole. We as young adults have power; the gifts, energy and passion that we possess will make this world a better place, so long as we try. Students should get involved in Dance Marathon for a multitude of reasons, not least among them being leadership development, fun, and giving back to their communities. However, to me, the most important reason to participate is that it empowers us as college students to authentically be “this generation fighting for the next.” When we open ourselves up to the stories told by our Miracle Families, and allow ourselves to empathize with their pain, that pain becomes a resolve to love and support those who need us. That resolve then becomes something powerful, one step, one dance move, and one college at a time.

What personal accomplishment/contribution are you most proud of from your involvement in Dance Marathon?

My involvement with Dance Marathon was an extremely humbling experience. The interactions that I had with many of our Miracle Kids showed me what real perseverance and courage could look like, and the wisdom and zeal for life that these children demonstrated and injected into my own life was mind-boggling. That being said, I take immense pride in what each team I have been a part of has accomplished for our local children’s hospital through Hope College Dance Marathon. I also am content and gratified by my own contributions to my program and community. The specific contribution in which I take the most pride involves the year-round culture change and fundraising campaign that I spearheaded with my three fellow directors and our executive team. From the time we were selected for our positions through DMLC 2017, we all sought a way to change the common perceptions our campus held towards Dance Marathon. Together, we devised a year-long and multi-year plan to engage more individuals and groups on our campus and create a long-term shift towards Dance Marathon being something that all people willingly and proudly contribute to, participate in, and enjoy. The message of all our efforts, particularly the fundraising strategy that I developed, was that each person’s involvement, money, and passion matter equally. This effort culminated during our main event and in the analytics we did post-Marathon. During our event, I directed our team and participants toward one last fundraising push. By the end of that push and our Marathon, we had surpassed our goal of $310,000 and seen the highest numbers ever of participants and teams reaching their goals, as well as our lowest ever percentage of zero-dollar fundraising participants. Especially amongst our Greek Life community and student athletes, we saw monumental change in enthusiasm and participation, not just in the fundraising realm, but in support of our Miracle Kids and overall engagement in being for the kids. Clearly, this was a team and campus effort, but I do feel a great deal of ownership and pride in frequently leading these changes.

Hope College Dance Marathon’s 2018 fundraising total reveal.


Miracle Network Dance Marathon is an international movement, involving over 400 colleges, universities and K-12 schools across North America that fundraise for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since its inception in 1991, Miracle Network Dance Marathon has raised more than $220 million–ensuring that no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.

Learn more about Miracle Network Dance Marathon:

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