Job 5:9

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.
Job 5:9

So many amazing things have happened in my life since I decided to neglect my blog, and it strikes me as odd because I had so many posts to write when very little was happening to me.  Thanks to the kind encouragement from friends and even from some strangers who have become friends, I have decided to write again.  While you will soon hear my Miss Clemson University story, I want to start with my most meaningful endeavor – Clemson Miracle.

My journey with Clemson Miracle started as a freshmen.  I signed up for Clemson University Dance Marathon (as it was then called) with some sorority sisters; I wanted to see what it was all about.  To my surprise, it was about so much more than dancing, and I fell in love.  Clemson Miracle (as we are now called) is part of the national Dance Marathon (DM) movement.  Each year, we fundraise for our local CMN hospital, which happens to be GHS Children’s Hospital in Greenville, SC.

We raised $17,152.63 for the kids (FTK) at my first DM, and I knew I wouldn’t want to rest until we reached even higher goals.  You see, the Dance Marathon is a celebration of our efforts.  Yes, we teach a morale dance, but we do so much more.  We have families share their stories, we play games, and we provide a variety of entertainment to everyone who stands with us for 12 hours.  We stand and dance and celebrate for the thousands of kids across America who are confined to a hospital bed today because we hope and pray they will leave that bed tomorrow.

One of our miracle children, Manning Grace, at the first DM I attended (2013) and the last (2016).
One of our miracle children, Manning Grace, at the first DM I attended (2013) and the last (2016).

My sophomore year, I applied for the executive board, and I had the chance to serve as corporate chair.  In other words, I was suppose to be bringing in the money.  I guess you could say we did okay bringing in money, and that year we raised $30,262.57 FTK.  There is beauty in the way college kids can come together and create change in their local community.  Of course, we were not stopping there.  We were going to get bigger.

Our miracle child, James Mason, at DM 2014.
Our miracle child, James Mason, at DM 2014.

My junior year, we set our highest goal yet.  This year we dreamed of raising $50,000, and we wanted it.  We were at a distinct disadvantage, though.  Nobody knew what DM was, and once most students heard “dance” and “12 hours” and “Saturday”, they backed away.  I had the pleasure of serving as Donor Relations chair, which means I had to convince college kids to give up their Saturday.  We changed our name to Clemson Miracle, because we felt creating miracles was our true purpose.  We were going to light the campus on fire with passion, and we were going to create change for our kids.  We raised $41,914.64, which was shy of our goal, but we would not be deterred.

Our miracle child, James Mason, at DM 2015.
Our miracle child, James Mason, at DM 2015.

(An important aside for you:  This is an undergraduate student organization.  Everyone involved has full-time commitments outside of Clemson Miracle, and Clemson Miracle is in itself a full-time commitment.  Being on our executive board is time consuming.  We are active every day of the year, and we push – never settling is why we have gotten where we are today.  There is no shame in not reaching lofty goals.  Dance Marathons across the nation are taking aim and achieving unbelievably more than even large corporations, like Wal-mart.  It is only possible through faith, vision, and passion.)

Our miracle child, Brinkley, playing with the tiger at CM 2016!
Our miracle child, Brinkley, playing with the tiger at DM 2016!

This brings us to 2015, the year my life changed entirely.  I ran for Executive Director, which is the same thing as saying I ran for president, of Clemson Miracle.  I knew I had a lot of growing to do if I received the title, but somehow, I knew I was up for it.  It was divine intervention; I just woke up one morning and felt called to apply.  Miracle of miracles happened, and I received the position.

Being Director of an organization is hard.  I knew coming in that my job was to take the 20 very different personalities of my (amazing) executive board and unite them in one cause.  We all had very different jobs, but we all needed to keep driving in the same direction.  I was the voice behind the scenes reminding everyone that they could do more.  I was the mediator when two positions crashed into each other and needed to get back on our track.  Yet, at the end of the day, I was unnecessary, and that’s a strange feeling.  It was especially weird after holding very active positions the two years prior.

One of our advisors gave me a piece of advise at the beginning of the year.  “It is the sign of a great leader if you can get the flu the day of Dance Marathon, but everything runs fine without you.”  I took that to heart.  I put aside the piece of me that prefers to do it on her own, and I grew the piece of me that delegates.  I helped assign the essential tasks, and I helped provide deadlines.  Then, I stood back, and I watched the most incredible executive board step into their roles.  They amazed me; I just had to trust.

Our miracle child, Mia, and her sister, Mailey - 2016 marks 10 years in remission for Mia!
Our miracle child, Mia, and her sister, Mailey – 2016 marks 10 years in remission for Mia!

Every minute, 62 children enter a CMN hospital, and on February 13, 2016, we would find out if we reached our goal of $62,000.  We flipped a total of $70,027.82 that day, but the donations did not end with the event.  The grand total going to the hospital is $71,252.96.

Pause and really think about that number.

Total reveal 2016
Total reveal 2016

That’s 29 sleeping chairs so parents do not have to leave their children.  That’s 26 specialized cribs for children with special needs.  That’s 16 vein viewing machines to ensure less times sticking kids for blood work.  That’s 222 conscious sedations, a procedure used to prevent the pain of spinal taps that insurance will not cover.  That’s 42 special breast pumps for mothers with babies in the NICU to ensure their babies are getting all the nutrients they need.  That’s 158 infant CPR mannequins to teach parents the proper technique to resuscitate a child with heart of breathing difficulties.  That money is a means to make miracles for families.

(Another aside: We report net profit, not gross.)

So why do we do it?

We dance for more birthdays.  We dance for kids to have a childhood.  We dance for parents to have support.  We dance for miracles to happen.

Because every child deserves a childhood.
Because every child deserves a childhood.

I have learned so much in this past year.  It has been one for personal growth, and I found out I am capable of so much more than I imagined possible.  I learned that God truly does immeasurably more when you let Him lead, and I know His plan was for us to reach these incredible heights.

After 4 years, walking away from Clemson Miracle feels like ripping a part of my soul out, but I know I’ll find other ways to contribute.  I’m going to be okay.  Last weekend, I selected the next Executive Director, and she is going to lead us to even grander heights.  I feel certain of that, even though that decision easily ranks in the top 5 hardest life choices I have made to date.

So a huge thank you to Clemson Miracle for molding me for the past 4 years into a much better version of myself!  And a huge thank you to all the parties who helped make it happen…

To our Families:
You guys are the reason we keep going.  You guys are the reason we will not stop.  Thank you for sharing your stories and keeping us motivated.  You are truly the bravest and kindest of people, and I am so blessed to know each and every one of you.

Forever proud of the way Ali celebrates Haley's life. Haley would be so proud of this queen, and I am so thankful to celebrate her legacy with you.
Forever proud of the way Ali celebrates Haley’s life. Haley would be so proud of this queen, and I am so thankful to celebrate her legacy with you.

And to my Family:
A huge thank you to for instilling the need to challenge society’s norms and the strength of character to do something about it.  You have never lost faith in me, no matter what my latest project is.  I am so grateful to have your love.

To our Miracle Makers:
Your generosity made these achievements possible.  Do not doubt the impact your donation had here in the upstate.  Even a dollar can create change, and by donating to this cause, you had a direct impact on a family.  You’re amazing.  Please never stop partnering with us; you can be a part of this journey.

To our Dancers:
I cry each year at DM because it blows me away how incredibly gracious the student body at Clemson University is.  Thank you for giving up your Saturday.  Thank you for demanding donations.  Thank you for hugging our sweet miracle kids and making them feel special.  Just thank you.

Thankful our student athletes are willing to give up their time to high-five our miracle kids.
Thankful our student athletes are willing to give up their time to high-five our miracle kids.

To the 2015-2016 Executive Board:
You ladies and our one gentlemen were phenomenal.  I do not trust others easily, so know it is a true sign of your capability that I gave you your position.  You are each capable of even more, and I challenge you to never stop pushing in life.  I love each of you and hope you know you can come to me if ever you need a friend.

Clemson Miracle 2016 Executive Board

To our advisors:
This year, you each stepped up by scheduling meetings with chairs, and that opened my schedule to do so much more than other executive directors had time for.  I knew I could count on you ladies at any time, and your love and support was so heavily relied on.  Thanks for being the mentors I did not even know I needed.

(left to right): me, Erin Helbling, Jenn Parker, Julie Fleishman, & Kelsey Rock
(left to right): me, Erin Helbling, Jenn Parker, Julie Fleishman, & Kelsey Rock

To Jenn:
You have believed in Clemson Miracle from the beginning, and your reaction when we blew our goal away this year still brings tears to my eyes.  You have been the best friend, mentor, and shoulder I could have asked for.  I love you so much, and I am so grateful that this amazing organization brought you into my life.  You might not realize how much change you have made in the world, but it is truly incredible the impact you have had as just one person.  You embody being the change you wish to see in the world, and I cannot wait to watch you continue to create new normals in the upstate.

Embracing the GHS Children's Hospital's annual giving coordinator after our total was revealed.
Embracing the GHS Children’s Hospital’s annual giving coordinator after our total was revealed.

To the 2016-2017 Executive Board, whomever you may be:
I already know you are going to obliterate our achievements this year with bigger achievements of your own, and I can’t wait!  I speak for my entire exec when I say do better than us.  We want you to recognize our mistakes and grow Clemson Miracle from them, and then, we want you to encourage the same from the next group.  Do not let us stagnate and never be satisfied.

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