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Cal Poly Dance Marathon Receives National Ryan White Award for Overcoming Adversity

Cal Poly Dance Marathon at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) was recently awarded the distinguished Ryan White Award for Overcoming Adversity at the Miracle Network Dance Marathon Leadership Conference in July. This award will be presented to the Miracle Network Dance Marathon organization whose experience in overcoming a significant obstacle best exemplifies Ryan White’s spirit and perseverance in the face of adversity.

In Spring 2018, a photo was released of a member of the Cal Poly student body wearing blackface at a fraternity event. The story spread quickly on social media and, soon after, protests and marches started to pop-up around Cal Poly’s campus. This event made national and local news and hashtags like #calpolyhate and #yourkidsarentsafehere began trending.

This event put a hold on Cal Poly Dance Marathon’s efforts to recruit students during the Spring 2018 Open House, which would normally be a time they could raise awareness about their organization to incoming students and parents. The student leaders had to make a tough decision, and decided to join many other student organizations by standing in solidarity with minority students and halting their participation in the Open House event.

Following the backlash after the racially-charged incident, Cal Poly’s campus and the surrounding community became very upset. To address the situation, the Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council put all chapters on probation and implemented immediate diversity and inclusivity training and new chapter expectations. Due to these new tasks, chapters were very busy during chapter meetings and Cal Poly DM was unable to present about their organization to the chapters. Greek life is usually a large portion of DM participants and Cal Poly DM would need to find new ways to recruit participants.

In addition, Cal Poly DM recognized the need to increase their efforts to focus more on inclusivity and diversity as an organization. They wanted to expand their reach to new audiences of students and ensure that all students on campus could see Cal Poly DM as a welcoming, inclusive, and safe organization for them. To help achieve this goal, their goal and reveal video was centered around inclusivity and diversity of students, showing that their entire campus could all be united, despite differences, around the cause of dancing until every kid has the opportunity to be Cal Poly Proud.

“It was our goal to ensure that all individuals on our campus would feel that Dance Marathon could be a secure home base for them,” said Hannah Randolph, President of Cal Poly DM.

During this time Cal Poly DM also got involved with Cal Poly’s Multicultural Center and participated in the Dia De Los Muertos Celebration, decorating an ofrenda to honor the children who lost their lives to pediatric illness.

Cal Poly DM implemented a Cross-Cultural Competence document, that included guidelines and best practices for their organization to ensure that they were always maintaining cultural respect and diversity in all they do. They look forward to working with the Multicultural Center to develop this document even further and continue their efforts to be an inclusive and representative organization on their campus.

Cal Poly Dance Marathon students receive the Ryan White Award for Overcoming Adversity at DMLC 2019.


Miracle Network Dance Marathon is an international movement, involving over 400 colleges, universities and K-12 schools across North America that fundraise for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since its inception in 1991, Miracle Network Dance Marathon has raised more than $250 million–ensuring that no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.

Learn more about Miracle Network Dance Marathon:

Facebook – Instagram – Website – Blog – YouTube