MACON – MU Miracle, a philanthropic student organization on Mercer University’s Macon campus, raised more than $82,000 for the Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital through various community service efforts throughout the school year.

This year’s grand total of $82,002.41, announced March 26, was a record for the organization over its six years of existence at the University.

MU Miracle is a part of Miracle Network Dance Marathon, a program of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals that partners with local children’s hospitals to help provide the best care for kids. Children in the program are called “Miracle Children” and their families “Miracle Families.”

Participating institutions host an up-to-26-hour event, formally called a dance marathon, to interact with patient families, participate in games and choreographed dance breaks, and, most importantly, reveal the fundraising total raised by the group throughout the course of the past year.

Typically, Mercer’s version of the dance marathon, known as “Bearthon,” lasts around eight to nine hours. This year, the organization hosted its first full-length event in Penfield Hall since the start of the pandemic.

“I’m so proud with the way it turned out,” MU Miracle President Ashton Taylor said. “It was so exciting to see it come together, and we were really able to transform Penfield. It was really amazing to see our Miracle Kids in person and feel the energy of everyone.”

Another executive board member, Director of Finance Sonny Patel, also took immense pride and joy in how the organization served the University and the larger community through its efforts.

“We try to bring the kids to Mercer to have them interact with the students, so they can see why fundraising for these kids is so important,” Patel said. “Many of these families don’t have the financial means to support themselves. We want to bring that connection between the hospital and the University to teach everyone what these kids are going through.”

Since its founding in 2015, MU Miracle has experienced exponential growth in student participation and community impact. This year, more than 300 students signed up for the Bearthon.

“A lot of people like to attribute our growth in terms of actual fundraising, but I like to put our growth in terms of how many people we’re reaching and how many people we share our mission with,” Taylor said. “I think, year after year, we’ve been able to expand, even through COVID.”

As MU Miracle continues to build on its fundraising efforts, the organization also plans to further expand its programming within Macon.

“This was our first Bearthon where high school students from Stratford Academy also participated,” Patel said. “We hope to have Bearthons in high schools in the near future.”

Taylor and Patel will be furthering their studies at Mercer’s School of Medicine this fall, allowing their passion for medicine and community outreach to continue to flourish in a meaningful way.

The root of Taylor’s interest in MU Miracle and Mercer’s School of Medicine is deep, as her rural hometown is a cancer cluster with few resources for families looking for medical care.

“When I saw that this organization was trying to give every single family in Middle Georgia a chance to fight no matter what they can pay, it really meant a lot to me,” Taylor said. “That is where I want to go in my career, and Mercer School of Medicine’s mission of giving back to rural populations and the underserved was how I knew I wanted to go this route.”

Patel believes his experience allowed him to better sympathize with the unique stories of potential patients while making a difference, one person at a time.

“Our goal is to make the kids feel special and give them a childhood they can look back on fondly in spite of difficult medical treatments,” Patel said. “Although Mercer’s slogan is ‘Everyone majors in changing the world,’ we have to start somewhere, and with MU Miracle we start with the community.”