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UF students mark Child Health Day with walk to Shands Hospital

UF students celebrate Child Health Day (Kennedy Mason/WUFT News)
UF students celebrate Child Health Day (Kennedy Mason/WUFT News)

Pediatric illness is something University of Florida student, Kalie Wright, knows well. It all started when she was sitting in the crowd of an event for Dance Marathon during her Sophomore year of high school. “I was listening to a story by a lady named Marsha Tripp,” she said. “These waves of emotions and flashbacks just struck me.”

Wright said she didn’t realize who was speaking at first, then realized it was the mother of a friend of hers, Kristin Tripp. Her friend since elementary school, Kristin recently passed away. “I remember her being bubbly, lively, spunky and so sassy,” she said. “Wearing the coolest pair of sneakers that any little girl could rock.” She said Kristin’s passing inspired her to stay in touch with the Tripp family. In doing so, she learned more about pediatric illnesses. “She always was herself 1,000%,” she said. “I think I have tried, especially since rekindling with her family, to be more authentically like myself for her and because of her.” Child Health Day is observed nationally as a way to educate people about the importance of healthcare and guidance children need in the United States. At the University of Florida, students involved with the organization “Dance Marathon,” a program of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals to raise money for 170 children's hospitals, spoke students on campus today. Dance Marathon members said 72 children enter a Children’s Miracle Network hospital each minute. “We celebrate here at UF as a way to advocate and spread awareness about the gaps in pediatric health care through funding that we get from the national government,” said Averie Engel, Dance Marathon overall director of public relations. Pediatric health care only gets 4% of funds from the national government for research, awareness and buying equipment. Dance Marathon students brought a giraffe bed on campus earlier today, which is a piece of equipment which provides premature and ill babies with a stress-reduced environment. It helps regulate body temperature and has humidity control to avoid moisture loss on the babies’ thin skin.

In addition, for the first time this year, at 4 p.m. on Monday, about 150 students walked .72 miles from Century Tower, the heart of UF’s campus, to UF Health Shands in support of those 72 children that enter a hospital each minute with pediatric illnesses. Harper Grabenhorst, UF’s Dance Marathon executive director, said the group raised signs and waved into the windows of the hospital when they arrived at Shands. She said it was important for her to make the children and their families feel extra good today. “Often we hear from families that tell us it’s not only the money we raise, but the community that Dance Marathon creates for them and their family,” Grabenhorst said. Engel said Children's Health Day is not just impacting children at UF Health Shands, but in hospitals all over the county “Think about the education we’re doing just on our campus, and how that’s manifesting throughout the entire country.”