Published May 20, 2020 by Julius Long ’20

Audrey Aitelli ’20 Wins Leadership Award for Dance Marathon

Before Audrey Aitelli ‘20 arrived at Bowdoin, Dance Marathon and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals were relatively unknown to the wider Bowdoin community.
Audrey Aitelli with unknown woman
Audrey Aitelli at the 2018 Dance Marathon Fundraiser for The Barbara Bush Children's Hospital in Portland, Maine.

Since founding Bowdoin College Dance Marathon as a first year in the spring of 2017, the six-hour danceathon has become an established, campus-wide philanthropic tradition.

This year, Aitelli was one of twenty-five students around the country selected to receive the 2020 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award for her exceptional contributions to the Dance Marathon program and Bowdoin’s local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

Her work supports children struggling with life-threatening medical conditions. As a former pediatric patient herself, Aitelli’s connection to the cause has been deeply personal. “In high school, I received life-saving medical care from Stanford and the Mayo Clinic,” she said. “I am incredibly grateful and extremely privileged to be able to travel and afford the care I needed. It breaks my heart to know that this is not the case for many children.”

In her first summer volunteering at SeriousFun Camps for kids with serious medical conditions, Aitelli met a 14-year-old girl with dreams of becoming a trauma surgeon. Aitelli, who will be applying to medical school while working at Massachusetts General Hospital next year, identified with her ambitions. But the young girl’s candor about the financial burden her family was facing due to her condition left a lasting impression. “Ever since I met this girl, I have worked and danced for kids like her so that every child has access to quality medical care,” Aitelli said.  

As the president and executive director of Bowdoin Dance Marathon from 2017 to 2019, Aitelli has led a team of Bowdoin students in organizing, fundraising, and increasing engagement among the student body.

“Year after year, we get to watch our miracle kids grow up and often see their conditions improve. It is so impactful for students to meet the families they fundraise for, play with the kids, and learn about their experiences and learn about the significant trials they fight through at such a young age,” Aitelli said.

The number of Dance Marathon participants has more than doubled year-over-year, and so has the level of fundraising. Over the past three years of the program, Bowdoin has raised nearly $90,000 for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, Maine, and Aitelli personally has raised over $28,000.  

Aitelli said she is excited to watch the impact Bowdoin Dance Marathon continues to make as she graduates from Bowdoin and will continue to fundraise for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

"As college students, we spend a large portion of our time serving our personal interests," she said. "When we take the time to realize that there are other people going through much more serious crises than getting a bad grade on an exam or taking a hard class, it gives us more perspective. Dance Marathon provides us with perspective, along with tangible ways to have a positive impact on others and see the results of our work."