It may seem strange to some — holding a semi-virtual dance marathon during a pandemic. But one of the things I love most about being part of Knight-Thon is our perseverance, driven by a promise to never give up on our kids.
On Sunday morning, the moment the Knight-Thon community in Orlando has been waiting for all year will finally arrive as we reveal how much money we were able to raise for Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children during our annual Children’s Miracle Network Hospital Dance Marathon.
While many students may be unaware of this cause on campus, Knight-Thon has become UCF’s largest student-driven philanthropy over the past 25 years. Each year of Knight-Thon is unlike any other, but as the organization’s community engagement manager I’ve seen how this milestone year is especially different as we’ve had to overcome the challenges of the pandemic, and I’ve never been more proud.
I have seen first-hand the impact of the funds that we have raised. My baby cousin was treated at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital and was able to receive the most amazing care possible because of Knight-Thon. For that, my family and I are forever grateful.
“This year we’re celebrating 25 years of Knight-Thon — 25 years’ worth of passion for a cause that allows all of the participants to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
My role with the Knight-Thon organization involves many different tasks, including overseeing all of our local K-12 feeder programs that hold their very own Children’s Miracle Network Dance Marathons on their campuses. Connecting to these feeder programs not only helps us support more kids through the Children’s Miracle Network, but it also serves as an introduction to the organization for many students — in fact my passion for this cause started through my high school’s own version of Knight-Thon. Since then I fell in love with everything this organization stands for.
Typically, we spend all year fundraising and raising awareness about our cause, and all that hard work culminates with a 20-hour event that includes games, music, dancing, silent disco, rave hour, stories from our miracle families, celebration of our K-12 feeder schools in the Central Florida area, and so much more.
My favorite moment of the entire event by far has to be our Circle of Hope. At the end of our main event — before the big reveal of how much money we’ve raised our Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children — all of our participants gather together in a circle and take notice of the hospital band that has been banded to us for the entire event. While someone goes around the circle and cuts off each person’s band, we recognize that while we may get to go home, the kids in our local CMN hospital don’t and are still fighting for their health.
It is a time to remember why we do what we do every single year. It’s a moment that brings tears to my eyes and goosebumps to my body because our kids can’t wait, they need us to keep fighting for them beyond just our main event. It is a moment that I hope everyone gets to experience at some point in their time here at UCF. Coming off of a virtual main event last year, we gained some background knowledge on how to provide an experience beyond campus and that helped with this year’s planning. While it was difficult at times, we persevered and spent countless days, weeks, and months to plan a hybrid main event that we are so proud of.
It will definitely be an event like no other we have done in the past two decades, but if you asked anyone on our executive board, I think majority of us would say there is no place we would rather be.
Our hope for this year is to reach audiences we haven’t been able to in the past, people we wouldn’t have been able to connect with otherwise and establish a broader presence on our UCF campus.
“Looking ahead at the next 25 years, we hope that legacy continues because our hospital doors never close.”
This year we’re celebrating 25 years of Knight-Thon — 25 years’ worth of passion for a cause that allows all of the participants to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Looking ahead at the next 25 years, we hope that legacy continues because our hospital doors never close.
Despite the number we will lift up Sunday morning, we hope that our impact will be the bravery that it took to fight as hard as we could for a cause that we love so much in the middle of a pandemic.
There will always be pediatric patients and families that need us and if we all continue to band together to fight for them, imagine the brighter tomorrow that could exist.
To learn more about Knight-Thon and how you can get involved with the cause, visit osi.ucf.edu/agencies/knight-thon