Anyone who knows me knows that I love being involved in community service. I ran a non-profit group in high school, taught, and spent many Saturday mornings growing up grocery shopping with my dad for a food pantry our family friends ran. In interviews I like to explain my major as “professional community service”.

I like helping people. Volunteering gives me a purpose. I have all this privilege given to me through no action of my own, so I need to do something with it. In the bible, Jesus always praises the actions of the person who does something to help those around them, and he leads by example. It is not enough to be a polite person. If we are to be good, we must take action.

Before coming to Syracuse, I didn’t know much about Dance Marathon, or Children’s Miracle Network, or Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital (our beneficiary) which I now live a ten minute walk from. I signed up for OttoTHON at Syracuse’s club fair during one of the first weeks of school, and aside from following them on instagram, I figured I would just sort of roll up to the event, dance, and go home.

By chance, I happened to check that I had an email from OttoTHON one day inviting me to apply to the “OttoTHON Leadership Program,” a freshman program through the dance marathon that sought to get first year students more involved in OttoTHON and teach them about what goes on behind the scenes. Sort of haphazardly, I filled out the application, only to receive an interview and get accepted into the program.

As a member of the OttoTHON Leadership Program, or OLP for short, I had to attend a weekly class on top of attending the board wide meetings every two weeks. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I sat down at the first meeting and introduced myself to the two girls sitting next to me, only to find out they lived in my building (Phoebe and Zara if you’re reading this I love you).

What started out as just a fun club took on more meaning to me as I learned more and more about the event. When you know why and for who you are fundraising, the stakes feel a bit higher. I know I’m losing followers posting about this little kid asking for donations, but when that little kid had the same tumor my brother once had, the only sad part is someone else’s apathy.

The first half of the dance marathon itself is a blur. I was awake by five and didn’t go to sleep until three the next morning, on my feet setting up, dancing, and trying to raise money for the kids I now had the chance to meet. At OttoTHON, we have several children known as our “Miracle Kids” who come to the event and they are the sweetest cherubs alive.

I won’t lie and say everything was rosy. My legs hurt after OttoTHON in a way I’ve never felt before and I did feel frustrated at times when I could not find anyone else willing to donate. It isn’t easy to stay up all day but what these kids fight through is ten times harder. Seeing the faces of little kids watching us from out the window as we paraded to the hospital, or watching as the executive board raised the final fundraising total at the end of the night make the pain worth it.

As a personal note, if you can join a dance marathon at your school, do it. If it doesn’t exist, start one. If you donated to me or anyone else, thank you thank you thank you. Words cannot express how important this charity is. It can be hard to find a cause everyone can get behind, but “for the kids” is as close as you can get.

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