Letizia D’Avenia: Miami Service Project 2022

Student Bio

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Roarthon (CC by 4.0)

Letizia D’Avenia is a Junior at the FIU Honors College, majoring in psychology with a declared track in the Industrial-Organizational specialization and a certificate in Team Management. She has lived her entire life in the city of Milan, Italy, and after moving to Miami three years ago, she became involved in different organizations on campus, such as Roarthon and Omicron Delta Kappa. Some of her hobbies include spending time with friends and family, drinking boba tea and collecting pins from different locations around the world.

WHO

Photo by CLS advisor at Roarthon  (CC by 4.0)

I volunteered for a student-run organization at FIU called Roarthon, a yearlong fundraising campaign ending in a 17 hour long event called Dance Marathon (where participants stand for 17 hours). This tradition started in 1991 thanks to a group of Indiana students, who founded “Dance Marathon” to honor Ryan White, a friend and student who passed away from HIV/AIDS. That small initiative became popular among campuses from the east to the west coast of North America. The money generated through this event benefits Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which is a non-profit organization that raises funds and awareness for more than 170 pediatric hospitals across the nation. Since their creations, all the Dance Marathons combined have raised over $200 million that went towards the kids being treated at the hospital and their families. At FIU, Roarthon gives back to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital (which is the local Children’s Miracle Network). This hospital history is based on children’s care and to ensure that no child would need to leave Florida to receive the best treatment possible for them (Nicklaus Children Hospital, 2022). After Roarthon was founded in 1997 at FIU, it has greatly contributed to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, raising over $1 million in cash donations and inviting a handful of “Miracle Families” every year to experience the marathon with the students.

WHY

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Roarthon (CC by 4.0)

I have always been someone who enjoys giving back to my community; whether it’d be a beach cleanup, volunteering at a shelter or participating in a philanthropic event. Therefore, when I heard about Roarthon, I decided to embark on this journey. I joined Roarthon in 2020 as a committee member, during the peak of the COVID outbreak, but I still had a phenomenal time and was able to aid in fundraising over $56,000 for the hospital. Seeing the impact that I had made in the past year as a committee member, I decided to apply for one of the director positions, to help plan the 2022 Dance Marathon. As the Co-Morale Director, I was in charge of ensuring that throughout the 17 hours of the marathon, the participants were having fun and were feeling connected to the cause and engage with others. I was also in charge of a committee of about 15-20 people, and I helped them navigate their tasks and duties, while keeping a positive attitude and being a point of contact for all of them. 

HOW

My freshman year of college I did not know anyone. I had just moved to Miami from Italy and I felt no sense of belonging. That was the time when I decided to join a sorority. In Italy, Greek life does not exist and I had no idea how much it would have changed my college experience. I decided to become a member of “Phi Mu”, and it is thanks to this organization that I found out about Roarthon. In fact, Phi Mu’s philanthropy is Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and members are strongly encouraged to participate, both in the Dance Marathon and as committee members, and that is why I decided to become part of it.

WHERE & WHAT

Photo by CLS advisor at Roarthon  (CC by 4.0)

The marathon began April 9th, for me specifically at 8am. In fact, as a Roarthon member I had to arrive at the WRC (the FIU gym) to set up. After a long morning of preparations, the doors opened at 3pm, allowing the first participants to come in. The opening ceremony started at 5pm, and during that time we welcomed the Miracle Families, who walked towards the stage throughout the Miracle Path, and introduced themselves. Once the opening ceremony was done, we counted down “3,2,1…” and we all got up, ready to stand for the following 17 hours. The first hours passed by quickly. Between dancing, playing interactive games and chit chatting with people, I made it all the way to 11pm without feeling too fatigued. There were different theme hours throughout the event, and at 11pm “rave hour” began. The lights went out and we had neon sticks and bracelets, which allowed us to create the atmosphere of a fun party.

Photo by Roarthon Participant (CC by 4.0)

Once that concluded at around 1am, tiredness started hitting. However, as Co-Morale Director, I had to keep pushing, and thanks to the activities happening on stage such as Pitbull lip-sync battles, dance improvisations, and costume changes to match the different theme hours, I stayed awake for the entire night. At 5am we were served breakfast, and that is when I collapsed; I was so tired I started dreaming while half asleep on the table. Once I ate breakfast and took a shower, I realized that there were only a couple more hours to go, and I felt energized once more. Remembering what and who I was doing this for was a huge motivator in keeping me from sitting down. Additionally, being able to see the LifeFlight ambulance boosted my morale, since I had never seen how infants are transported when they are under critical conditions. 

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Roarthon in front of LifeLight (CC by 4.0)

Finally, closing ceremony approached, and listening to the testimony of a cancer patient made me realize that although I was in pain and exhausted, I was able to go home, rest and feel better, while ill patients are not able to do so, and many times they have to undergo treatments who will cause 10 times worse the pain I was feeling then. It definitely helped me put my experience into perspective. The total we ended up fundraising was $60,000, and once that total was revealed I cried tears of joy, I was so exhausted but satisfied and ecstatic for the outcome of the event. After more than 17 hours, April 10th, I was leaving the gym at 12pm and as soon as I went back home, I fell asleep.

WHEN

SUMMARY

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Roarthon in front of LifeLight (CC by 4.0)

Overall, this has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. It definitely tested my endurance and commitment, but I am glad I did not give up and arrived at the finish line. I believe that every aspect of this Dance Marathon worked well, the food provided was exquisite, the activities were fun, and I made friendships that will last a long time, while making an impact on kids and their families. I am part of the future generations who will be able to change kids’ health, and it is my responsibility to partake in initiatives like these ones, because Kids Can’t Wait!

CITATION

“Home: FIU Dance Marathon.” Roarthon, https://roarthonmarketing.wixsite.com/roarthon.

“Hospital History & Historical Timeline.” Hospital History and Historical Timeline | Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, https://www.nicklauschildrens.org/about-us/history.

“Lifeflight® Critical Care Transport.” LifeFlight® Critical Care Transport | Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, https://www.nicklauschildrens.org/medical-services/pediatric-critical-care-medicine/lifeflight.The Impact and Legacy of Miracle Network … – Youtube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8xMbvAu5W0.

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