CLEMSON — Hundreds of volunteers from student organization Clemson Miracle came together during the 2017-18 academic year to raise a record $234,851 for the Children’s Hospital of Greenville Health System (GHS). The amount not only was a record for Clemson Miracle, but also a record contribution to GHS from any university organization.

Members of the executive board from Clemson Miracle presented a check for $234,851 to Children's Hospital of Greenville Health System on April 2.

Members of the executive board from Clemson Miracle presented a check for $234,851 to Children’s Hospital of Greenville Health System on April 2.
Image Credit: Greenville Health System

“We are very grateful for Clemson Miracle’s partnership and humbled by their fundraising efforts,” said Jennifer Jameson, Children’s Miracle Network manager at GHS. “The students are incredible and their hard work and determination will truly leave a legacy at Children’s Hospital of Greenville Health System. Countless patients and families will be impacted by their generosity.”

For its efforts, Clemson Miracle has been recognized as Student Organization of the Year by the university chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa, the National Leadership Honor Society. The group is also one of three finalists for Clemson Student Organization of the Year, presented at the annual Campus Activities & Events awards program.

The group will be honored Wednesday by Gov. Henry McMaster at the State House. McMaster declared April 25 “South Carolina Dance Marathon Day” in honor of teams at the state’s colleges who raised millions for hospitals. Four members of Clemson Miracle, along with two advisers, will be in Columbia for the 10 a.m. ceremony.

Executive director Morgan Witherspoon, a junior industrial engineering major, said Clemson Miracle first broke six figures in its annual partnership with GHS in 2017. Twelve months later, the student organization saw an 86 percent increase to the record amount that was raised.

“Last year (2017) was a record, so we just keep breaking records,” Witherspoon said. “Some of the money will go toward a pediatric summer camp endowment, some to Safe Kids Upstate and the rest will go toward upgrades to the GHS healing garden. GHS has worked with Clemson horticulture classes to redesign the garden and we’re helping fund it. So it’s all a collaborative effort.”

Morgan Witherspoon of Clemson Miracle during the organization's 12-hour dance marathon

Witherspoon and Clemson Miracle hosted a 12-hour dance marathon at Fike Recreation Center on Feb. 24 to raise most of the funds for the local Children’s Miracle Network hospital.
Image Credit: Student Affairs Publications

The majority of funds were raised Feb. 24 at Clemson Miracle’s dance marathon. The event, which took place in Fike Recreation Center from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., featured dance and fitness instruction, guest speakers, student group performances and testimonials from Children’s Miracle Network families.

Witherspoon said each volunteer is required to raise a minimum of $100 to enter the dance marathon. Nearly 500 students checked in during the 12-hour event.

“We don’t sit or sleep during the marathon,” she explained. “You’re standing for kids who can’t. You’re standing to honor the kids who are in the hospital struggling.”

The partnership with Children’s Miracle Network hits close to home for Witherspoon, a native of Fort Mill. Her sister, Jenna, lost a 2½-year battle with brain cancer at the age of 12 after being treated at the local Children’s Miracle Network hospital (Levine) in Charlotte.

Witherspoon knew she wanted to be involved with Clemson Miracle before she enrolled.

“I kept in touch with some of her friends who ended up at the University of South Carolina, and that’s how I became aware of the dance marathon,” she said. “That’s how I knew I wanted to be plugged in here at Clemson, to give back and continue her legacy.”

Katelyn Voorhees, Ashley Miller and Morgan Witherspoon of Clemson Miracle

Witherspoon with Clemson Miracle’s two advisers, Katelyn Voorhees (left) and Ashley Miller (center), after the annual Student Affairs awards recognition.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

After serving as donor relations chair of Clemson Miracle’s executive board as a sophomore, Witherspoon assumed her current position this academic year and also plans to serve in the same capacity as a senior. The 2017-18 executive board included 26 students and two advisers, Ashley Miller (staff) and Katelyn Voorhees (graduate student).

Miller, who participated in the dance marathon as an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina, first became involved as the graduate adviser for Clemson Miracle from 2013 to 2015. Now a full-time employee working with transfer academic programs, she is in awe of how far the organization has come.

“When I was here as a graduate adviser, they may have flipped a grand total of about $40,000 or so,” Miller said. “The growth from last year to this year was awesome, and last year’s total was unheard of at Clemson.”

Witherspoon was joined by several members of the executive team — including internal events director Ashley McMullen and finance director Madison Mead — in a check presentation with Children’s Hospital staff from GHS on April 2.

She said she hopes to inspire future generations of Clemson volunteers to want to make a similar difference in the lives of others.

“I want people to see that even though we’re young, we have the opportunity to do big things,” she said. “We are helping kids we don’t know and may never meet. But when you hear from Miracle families with children who have been or are currently treated at GHS, they share their stories and you understand how our donations help impact the hospital.”