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HOPE student group recognized for best new marathon in nation

Members of HOPE at UNG raised more than $42,000 for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. The members are, from left, Lauren Dalton, Heather Callahan, Rachel Peterson, Sara Henley, Catie Clark, Michael Coriell, Makenzie Bryant, and Sidney Sager.

For raising more than $42,000 for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the Helpful, Optimistic, Positive and Encouraging (HOPE) organization at the University of North Georgia (UNG) was recognized as the Best New Dance Marathon at the Miracle Network Dance Marathon Leadership Conference in July.

The award recognizes an organization that hosted its first or second Dance Marathon in the 2017-2018 academic year. It is chosen based on fundraising success, year-round programming and Dance Marathon execution.

"We were so humbled, excited, surprised, and shocked," said Katie Mitchell, executive director of HOPE at UNG. "The award serves as a symbol that we are doing and representing something much bigger than any one of us."

HOPE is a student organization at UNG with the purpose of raising awareness and finding cure for every disease and illness treated by the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, which is the local Children's Miracle Network hospital

"We are this generation fighting for the next," said Mitchell, a sophomore from Peachtree City, Georgia, majoring in marketing.

HOPE raised the money with its first dance marathon in April 2018 and through individual members' fundraising efforts.

"It was hard to bring the dance marathon to UNG," said Heather Callahan, founder of HOPE at UNG. "With the help and support from our advisers at the hospital and UNG staff adviser, John Cheatham, senior IT AV Systems design engineer, it came together so smoothly."

Before the dance, members had raised $20,000. But HOPE leaders stopped examining the funding three weeks prior to the event to allow the total to be a surprise. After three fundraising pushes, HOPE doubled its amount.

"When the numbers rose, we all cried, screamed, hit the floor, clapped, and shouted because we were so proud that 270 college students could raise that much money in less than one year," said Callahan, an exercise science major from Kennesaw, Georgia.

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