When Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick announced in December that he was launching a social media contest to find a local charity to donate $25,000 to, University of Central Florida students sprang into action.
The students are involved with Knight-Thon, a Dance Marathon that asks participants to stand for 18 hours to “dance for the kids who can’t” and to raise funds for the Children’s Miracle Network. No strangers to a challenge, those involved with the university’s largest student-run philanthropy rallied together to gain the support of the UCF community — and the attention of Redick.
“We reached out to UCF students, faculty and staff members, asking for their help,” said Michael Davis, Knight-Thon executive student director. “We also received help from Dance Marathon programs across the nation and community supporters of the Greater Orlando Children’s Miracle Network. After that, the only thing we could do was tweet to J.J. Redick about why Knight-Thon was the most deserving group for the donation.”
For the next week, Knight-Thon supporters sent tweets and videos to Redick, sharing their own stories about Knight-Thon and the Children’s Miracle Network. Katie Waser, Knight-Thon’s Family and Children’s Miracle Network Relations director, made several submissions of her own.
“After tweeting countless miracle stories and Knight-Thon facts to J.J. and receiving responses, I finally decided to make a video to really share with him what Knight-Thon means to me,” said Waser, a junior who hopes to become a child life specialist and work in a hospital after graduation.
“I talked about our wonderful miracle children and how Knight-Thon has truly changed my life. College is usually a selfish time where we think about our degrees, our money and just getting by,” Waser said. “When Knight-Thon is a part of the picture, college is a very selfless time.”
On Christmas Day, Redick announced on Twitter that the winning charity was Loaves and Fishes of Apopka. Minutes later, he added that he and his wife, Chelsea, would also donate $25,000 to Knight-Thon and congratulated Waser for submitting the winning video.
“It was quite a whirlwind of emotions,” said Waser. “I was completely shocked. I cried tears of happiness and could not stop shaking because I just could not believe it.”
Last year, Knight-Thon raised $118,000 for Children’s Miracle Network. This year, the organization’s goal is to raise $170,000 by April 13.
“We need the help of everyone in order to reach our goal,” said Davis. “Knight-Thon couldn’t raise funds without the generous support of students, faculty, staff and community partners. We’d like to thank everyone for their continued support.”
Knight-Thon will begin Saturday, April 13 at 11:30 a.m. at The Venue at the UCF Arena. The dance marathon will run until 6 a.m. the next day. To learn more about Knight-Thon or to donate, visit http://www.knight-thon.com.