Marathon to a Million

KENNESAW, Ga. | Mar 4, 2019

KSU student group hits milestone in helping children

After her own battle with cancer, Kennesaw State freshman Emma Cikovic was determined to be a part of a KSU student organization that helps hospitalized children.

Cikovic, 19, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma prior to her senior year of high school, but her cancer is in remission following three surgeries and several rounds of chemotherapy. The care she received inspired her to join Miracle at Kennesaw State, which supports Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta year-round through activities and fundraisers culminating in its signature event, the annual dance marathon.

“Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has done a whole lot for me – not just the medical treatment, but also their personal support that makes you feel like family,” Cikovic said. “I wanted to give back, and this was the perfect way.”

Cikovic joined hundreds of Kennesaw State students Saturday at the Betty Siegel Student Recreation and Activities Center for the 12-hour dance marathon. It concluded with the announcement that this year’s campaign raised $340,984 for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, which pushed Miracle at Kennesaw State over $1 million in contributions in the student organization’s 11-year history.

KSU Miracle Dance Marathon

“I think that it just says we care about the kids,” said senior Cameron Hartnett, a morale captain with Miracle at Kennesaw State. “It’s unreal to see that milestone broken. It doesn’t feel like I could be part of something that amazing, and I’m just so unbelievably blessed that I’ve gotten the chance.”

For Miracle at Kennesaw State executive director Alex King, it was the perfect ending to her three years serving on the executive board. She joined the organization after attending the dance marathon as a freshman and seeing students jumping up and down, hugging and crying when the campaign total was unveiled.

“I thought, ‘I need to be part of this. I need to find this same passion,’” King said. “I got involved and I visited CHOA, and I saw so many kids in pain and going through disease and sickness that no kid should ever have to go through. Seeing the impact we have on the kids from spending time with them and supporting them really sparked my passion.”

Fellow senior Anne Treanor gave the credit to her predecessors who laid the foundation for Miracle to make six-figure contributions to Children’s Healthcare. The campaign has grown exponentially in recent years, with the three most recent ones totaling $886,654.

“I look at the alumni who paved the way for me, and it really hit me the other day that I could be that person for somebody else,” said Treanor, Miracle’s marketing director. “We have been able to do amazing things as an organization, and I want to keep it going for kids who are going to need it and don’t know that yet.”

Miracle at Kennesaw State has more than 1,000 registered members, and nearly 700 of them raised money in this year’s campaign, according to staff advisor Jennifer Tesch. Along with their fundraising, the Miracle members organize, promote and host the dance marathon in an entirely student-led effort. The group also coordinates events throughout the year for families of children being treated at CHOA to socialize and support each other.

“It takes having a heart of kindness for these students to dedicate so much time to these events in addition to taking full course loads and holding down jobs,” Tesch said. “I think that capability to do so much is one thing that makes Kennesaw State students so awesome and unique.”

KSU Miracle Dance Marathon

Some of them also employed unique methods for collecting donations. Hartnett posted on social media that he would match every dollar donated in a 24-hour period; it turned out to be $370, which he then doubled to $740. The contributions kept coming even after his matching offer expired, and he raised more than $1,000 in just four days and topped $2,000 by dance marathon day.

Harnett also took his fundraising efforts on campus, where he wound up duct-taped to a wall – anyone who donated a dollar could place a piece of tape over him on the wall. Or, for a $3 contribution, he got hit in the face with a whipped cream pie.

“It sounds ridiculous, but it’s so worth it,” Hartnett said. “Whatever it takes, it’s all for the kids.”

– Paul Floeckher

Photo by David Caselli; Submitted photo by Brian Weaver

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