BASKING RIDGE, NJ — Two years ago while volunteering in Long Term Care at Children’s Hospital, Ridge High School student Angelina Xu felt the emptiness of the hospital as she assisted therapists and doctors with recreational activities. Rarely did she see patient families united because parents were away working to pay medical bills, the number one reason for bankruptcy in America. Xu kept questioning, “What more could be done?”

Searching for answers, she came across Miracle Network Dance Marathon, a movement spearheaded by students across North America that raises funds and awareness for more than 170 pediatric hospitals. The charity is committed to keep funds 100 percent local to support local kids. By founding a club at Ridge High School, Xu initiated the first high school Dance Marathon in New Jersey.

Last year for the holiday season, she led her club to sell more than 300 pounds of cookie dough, ranging from snickerdoodle to white chocolate macadamia. They also sought out business sponsorships from Panera, Kumon, etc. Their ultimate goal, however, was the end-of-year Dance Marathon, an hours-long event with free catering and exciting activities that invites patient families to share their stories. Xu and her team also reached out to numerous student organizations at Ridge, including the International Dance Team, Biomedical Engineering, and Tri-M Music Honors Society, to plan programs and demonstrations for the Dance Marathon.

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Their six-hour Dance Marathon planned for May was canceled due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, Xu was unfazed. She continued to reach out to local patient families and invited them to virtual Zoom calls, so they could share their rehabilitation stories, which inspired Xu to keep fighting. Throughout the summer, she has held over ten hours of virtual events, exceeding the originally planned six hours. Since the Miracle Network’s inception, the team has raised nearly $10,000 through donations, fundraisers and sponsorships. Xu wants to ensure that no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.

To learn more and donate, go to https://dancemarathon.childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org/ or visit their Instagram page (@dancemarathon).