Utah State University student Jenna Stoker, a senior who recently graduated with degrees in dietetics and exercise science, is one of 25 students in the nation to receive the 2020 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award.
The Miracle Network Dance Marathon benefits Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and raises funds and awareness for more than 170 pediatric hospitals across North America. Each year, hundreds of thousands of students participate in Dance Marathon at 400 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada. Since inception, Miracle Network Dance Marathon has raised more than $300 million for kids across North America – ensuring no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.
Stoker worked to begin organizing the Aggiethon Dance Marathon in 2018 in order to help increase awareness and raise funds for costs associated with childhood illness and injury. USU students raise funds year-round for the local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. In 2019-20, Stoker’s leadership saw the marathon and its associated events raise over $35,000, while in 2018-19 more than $15,000 was raised.
“Over 80,000 children are treated at Primary Children’s and many of the families can’t afford the unexpected medical bills,” Stoker said. “I knew that many of those families come from Cache Valley and I wanted to let them know that we as Utah State University and as a community, care for them and are cheering them on. I then started creating a team to organize the dance marathon.”
The Aggiethon organization puts on service events throughout the year to raise awareness and funds. The events lead to the culminating celebration, the Dance Marathon, allowing students to meet some of the children they raised money for, interact with each other and unite in a cause bigger than themselves, Stoker explained. She worked to arrange partnerships with numerous campus clubs, organizations and community partners to create unity in the cause of raising money for families who need help with medical expenses.
Stoker has three nieces who are treated regularly at Primary Children's Hospital and wanted to find a way to give back and help the children and their families going through tough times. After being elected as the Utah State University Student Association vice president in 2018-19, she realized the Aggiethon Dance Marathon would be a great way to give back to the community.
“Each year, we celebrate all that the university has fundraised and to cheer the miracle “kiddos” during our Aggiethon, dance marathon,” Stoker said. “What is so neat is that the students do all the fundraising through ‘peer-to-peer fundraising,’ meaning we all reach out to family, friends, local businesses, etc. asking if they'd be willing to donate to the cause for the kids.”
Stoker’s post-graduation plans take her to a seven-month internship to become a registered dietitian. Once complete, she will be able to sit for the Registered Dietitian exam. Her future goal and dream is to work in a pediatric hospital as a pediatric dietitian and eventually specialize in pediatric oncology or cystic fibrosis.
“We are so proud to have the opportunity to recognize your incredible contributions to your dance marathon organization at Utah State University, your local hospital and the overall Miracle Network Dance Marathon movement,” the Miracle Network Dance Marathon leadership said of Stoker.
Stoker says becoming involved in service in college helps students engage in their community and encourages all students to find something they are passionate about and give back.
“There is power in bringing a community together to be a part of something much bigger than ourselves,” Stoker said.
To learn more about becoming involved in the Aggiethon, visit aggiethon.usu.edu. To learn more about service opportunities at USU, visit the Val R. Christensen Service Center website, https://servicecenter.usu.edu/.