Riley Lesh, 13, currently holds the record for most Miracle Network Dance Marathon events attended in a year by a Miracle Kiddo (28). Riley was born 3.5 months premature at Riley Hospital for Children & has devoted her young life to giving back through Miracle Network Dance Marathon:
“For the kids means a lot to me because I AM one of the kids. And it’s not just me. A lot of my friends and fellow champions have spent time in Riley Hospital for Children or in other CMN Hospitals. So when someone is dancing or raising money For The Kids, they’re doing it for kids just like me and my friends. It’s easy for me to identify with that.
Miracle Network Dance Marathons have completely changed my life. It’s hard to know what my life would be like without dance marathons because I’ve been doing it for so long. But I can’t imagine I would be comfortable speaking in front of thousands of people, organizing fundraisers with my gymnastics teammates, or making up a line dance for Inspire Dance Marathon. Pretty much every social media post I make is asking for donations, a picture of me hanging out with my friends at a dance marathon or a picture of dance marathon total. We schedule our lives around the dance marathon season and I would have it no other way.
My favorite dance marathon memory is when Indiana University broke the two million dollar mark. I was there when they made one million for the first time but I was too little to understand. Two million was emotionally overwhelming for me. For the first time, I really understood how much time, energy and passion went into the Dance Marathon movement. I knew then that I wanted to be a bigger part of that family. Since then, I have been a part of Purdue’s $1 million million dollar total and IU’s $3 million dollar total, but that $2 million dollar raising of the numbers will forever be special to me.
It’s hard for me to think of myself as a dance marathon leader since I’m only 13. But a lot of people tell me that my story inspires them and my passion for dance marathon and helping kids makes them want to help others as well. In just a year, I got a dance marathon started at my future high school, I started one at my gymnastics center and I served as a morale exec for a new dance marathon made up of hospital families. And Dance Marathon has helped me be more of a leader at school, as well as teaching me to be a better public speaker. I know that not only has dance marathon made me a better person, it’s helping me get ready for whatever my future brings me.” – Riley Lesh