Student-run RhodyTHON reaches $600,000 mark in funds raised to benefit children’s health care

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 11, 2022 – For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, University of Rhode Island students kicked up their heels this spring with the return of the RhodyTHON dance marathon, raising more than $63,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network in the process.

In its five years, the URI student-run, non-profit organization has raised more than $600,000, which has benefited Hasbro Children’s Hospital, one of 170 hospitals in the U.S. and Canada that are part of the Children’s Miracle Network. On May 2, Hasbro Children’s Hospital recognized the work of the RhodyTHON program by dedicating a plaque at the hospital in a ceremony that included hospital officials and about 20 members of the RhodyTHON Executive Board.

RhodyTHON Executive Director Paige Nickla prepares for the check presentation.

“It is simply amazing when you consider just how big of an impact these students have had on the lives of our patients and their families as a result of their efforts with RhodyTHON,” said Saul N. Weingart, MD, Ph.D., president of Rhode Island and Hasbro Children’s hospitals. “We are honored to benefit from not only their support, but also their deep commitment to the health and well-being of kids. It is said there is power in numbers, and the example being set on the URI campus is one we all can follow.”

“To me, as well as the rest of the Executive Board, being recognized with a plaque for the program from Hasbro Children’s Hospital is so rewarding and means so much to us all,” said Paige Nickla ‘22, Executive Director of RhodyTHON. “Every student who has served on the board since 2018 holds a passion for advocating and raising money to change kids’ health and change their futures. None of us would have thought RhodyTHON could raise over $600,000 for Hasbro Children’s Hospital in just five years. Being recognized by the hospital is truly special for everyone involved and the organization as a whole.”

Formed in 2018, RhodyTHON raises awareness of and advocates for Miracle Children and their families through annual fundraising that culminates in a spring dance marathon. While the dance marathon was postponed in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic, the organization ran virtual fundraisers and even held a limited, in-person parade on the Quadrangle last year that conformed to COVID-19 restrictions.

On April 2, the dance marathon returned to Mackal Fieldhouse, attracting nearly 800 students, faculty and staff over its 10 hours, as well as nine Miracle families.

“A few of the families have been with us since the beginning of the program,” said Nickla, a nursing major from Easton, Massachusetts. “I’m a senior and I joined RhodyTHON at the end of my freshman year. It was nice seeing a few of the families that still participate, and seeing how the kids have grown, how healthy they are and their ability to participate in everyday children’s activities. Some of them have had multiple surgeries and have stayed in the hospital for months. So, it’s pretty amazing to see where they are now. It’s very rewarding.”

The funds raised by RhodyTHON over the years have helped to support Hasbro Children’s areas of greatest need, as well as renovations to its inpatient facilities and equipment, while also benefiting pediatric and behavioral services and aiding families in need.

At the plaque ceremony, Nickla, who did a clinical rotation at Hasbro Children’s as part of the URI nursing program, and the rest of the student board members were able to see the renovations and equipment that their fundraising has supported.

“As a future nurse, I realize how important it is to have the latest equipment to be able to care for a child and provide them with the best hospital experience possible,” Nickla said, “It has been so gratifying to be able to directly impact the lives of the people in our Rhode Island community.”

“I am still so humbled to have been able to serve as Executive Director this past year,” she added. “It has been so great to be able to work with such hard working and inspiring individuals. They’re all URI students who I otherwise wouldn’t have met. We all came together to support the kids at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.”