Miracle kids strut the runway, PDM fundraises for Children’s Hospital


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Two Pitt Dance Marathon miracle kids and two Pitt students on stage at the Pitt Dance Marathon’s Fashion Show Wednesday night.

By Renee Dubaich, Staff Writer

Kids dressed in superhero and princess costumes and accessorized with light-up crowns were the stars at the Pitt Dance Marathon’s fashion show on Wednesday. The 10 miracle kids, who are part of the Children’s Miracle Network, modeled their outfits while showing off their favorite dance moves as the audience cheered them on.

PDM and Greek Week organized this year’s annual show, which about 150 people attended on Wednesday at Alumni Hall. About 40 people also joined the livestream in what marked the organization’s first partially in-person event in two years. The show consisted of three rounds featuring the miracle kids strutting down the runway and occurred a week after PDM fundraised $56,801.04 on Push Day — a 36-hour period of fundraising — for the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

PDM is the largest student-run philanthropy at Pitt that raises funds and awareness for Children’s Hospital. Throughout the year, thousands of Pitt students come together to raise money for this effort, leading up to the 12-hour dance marathon in the spring. This year it will occur on March 26.

The packed audience greeted the long-awaited fashion with enthusiasm. Upbeat music played and blue and yellow lights illuminated the auditorium. The first round began with the 10 miracle kids being escorted by the members of PDM who raised the most money. As the first participants arrived on stage, the crowd cheered.

The excitement continued as the PDM members and the miracle kids danced to the music as the audience clapped in unison. The supporters in the crowds held personalized signs to encourage each of them on stage.

The second round featured the top Greek life organizations walking alongside the kids, and in the final round it was time for selected PDM members to make an appearance. At the end of the show, all the kids and fundraisers came on stage. The audience stood up and clapped a final time as the kids waved goodbye.

Julianna Keith, a senior nursing major and president of PDM, said these events are not only meaningful to members and fundraisers, but their main goal is to offer support to the miracle kids from the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“We host the biggest events of the year, where kids can be bigger than their diagnosis,” Keith said. “Once they’re on stage, they can just have fun and be loved by so many people, including strangers.”

Emma Kappler, a junior political science and law, criminal justice and society major, said it’s important for organizations like PDM to be supported because these events and fundraisers help save and improve children’s lives in hospitals.

“These kids’ lives affect everyone,” Kappler said. “What we do benefits such an important cause, because a lot of people know of children who are in hospitals and it is important that we advocate for them and offer them support.”

Kappler, who’s also the marketing director of PDM, said she couldn’t wait to finally have an in-person event with the miracle kids again.

“The fashion show happens every year, but we had to improvise because of COVID,” Kappler said. “The last in-person event that we did was actually the fashion show in 2020, then everything got shut down. We spend so much time fundraising to support the miracle kids, so we have been waiting for this event all year to see them in person again.”

Kappler said she decided to get involved with PDM because it advocated for the lives of children in hospitals through events like the fashion show.

“We are creating change that is bigger than ourselves,” Kappler said. “For me, it was really a no-brainer to get involved. These kids go through so much, and we hope that these events and our support gives them happiness.”

Kaitlyn Weaving, a sophomore psychology and business major, is on the finance board of PDM, and walked with a miracle kid during the third round.

“I was very excited because we spend a lot of the year fundraising, and it is great to see the kids who we are doing it for,” Weaving said. “It’s good to see that all the work that we do pays off. It is so rewarding to see the connections of how the work we do benefits a greater cause.”

Emily Cooper, a senior nursing major and director of programming of PDM, was also eager to finally host an in-person event again. She was particularly excited about the dance marathon in the spring — a major PDM event that had to be held online last year.

“In 2020, we had our first virtual dance marathon from the comfort of our homes. Gradually, we have introduced in-person events back. We are more than excited to welcome back the fashion show and of course day of on March 26,” Cooper said. “It will be a lot of students’ first ever 12-hour, in-person dance marathon here at Pitt which is amazing.”

Cooper said she loves PDM because it offers a diverse community that has allowed her to connect with students of all years at Pitt. But the cause sticks out to her the most. She said that these in-person events allow fundraisers to come together to understand the impact of their charity.

PDM is a family that spans across all majors and all interests. Aside from the community PDM provides, the cause is amazing. You will see at events like fashion show, a smile, even under masks, as fundraisers see first hand what their dollars do,” Cooper said. “They allow these kids to be kids, wear fun costumes, run across stages and shoot for the stars.”