‘Miracle Kids’ and their families thank Hatterthon for raising $52K for Children’s Hospital

Students hold up sign showing they raised $52K at Hatterthon
Members of the Hatterthon team participated in the traditional event-concluding “reveal” by displaying the amount raised by the campaign. Photos by Rick de Yampert

As Alan Murillo addressed the crowd Saturday at Stetson University’s sixth annual Hatterthon, a student-led benefit that raised $52,050 for Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, he was interrupted by his 8-year-old son, Myles.

Born more than two months premature and weighing just 1 lb. 13 oz., Myles was diagnosed with a drug-resistant form of epilepsy at 18 months and was experiencing up to 20 seizures per day. At the Palmer hospital, Myles underwent surgery to have a device called a Vagal Nerve Stimulator implanted in his body.

Mom is talking on stage with husband and son beside her at Hatterthon
Myles Murillo, front, and his parents Katie and Alan Murillo were one of the Miracle Families who attended Hatterthon.

“It’s like a pacemaker for the brain,” Murillo told the Hatterthon gathering in the Rinker Field House on Saturday, March 26. “One of the things we told Myles when he had this device put in . . .”

“Like Iron Man!” Myles shouted, smiling as he interrupted his dad.

“Yes, aka Iron Man,” Alan Murillo said, noting that the implant led his son to feel a connection to the Marvel Comics superhero. “The device has been working very, very well. His journey is not over and that’s one of the things that you are helping with today.”

That help came in the form of $52,050.22 raised during this year’s Hatterthon campaign. Hatterthon is part of the Miracle Network Dance Marathon, a nationwide, student-led effort that raises funds and awareness for any one of the 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in the United States and Canada — in this case, the Orlando Arnold Palmer facility.

Throughout the year, Hatterthon hosts various awareness and fundraising activities that culminate in an annual spring semester event in which students, who are organized in fundraising teams, compete in silly contests, dance to modern pop hits blasted over a PA system, continue fundraising, and hear from some of the “Miracle Families” and “Miracle Kids” whose lives have been directly impacted by the students’ efforts. At the end of the event, Hatterthon staffers revealed the total funding raised during the year.

Boy pours syrup on woman seated in a chair at Hatterthon
Myles Murillo turned Hatterthon Executive Director Trinity Malmen into a “human sundae.”

A highlight of Hatterthon is its traditional “Human Sundae” event, in which some of the Miracle Kids are selected to douse members of the Hatterthon internal team with chocolate syrup, sprinkles and other makings of an ice cream sundae.

This year the honors went to Myles, who turned Hatterthon Executive Director Trinity Malmen into a sundae, and Patrick Jacobson, who gleefully gave Hatterthon Event Director Chanel Gerena the sundae treatment.

“My favorite part is meeting the Miracle Families, listening to their stories, listening to their experiences and learning how we can continue to help support them,” said Malmen, a junior International Business major.

Lizzie Dement, associate director for Student Development, noted that Hatterthon organizers had planned to use super string instead of sundae fixings due to pandemic concerns, but human sundaes were added back to the agenda when the university removed many COVID-19 protocols on Wednesday, March 23.

Hatterthon was last held in-person during February 2020, just prior to the pandemic. Last year’s event was held indoors in the CUB, with small groups of participants separated into numerous rooms in the building while activities were live-streamed.

Family poses at Hatterthon
Brothers Patrick, front, and Will Jacobson, right, attended Hatterthon with their mother Karen Fisher and father Paul Jacobson.

The Murillo family – son Myles, father Alan and mother Katie – have attended every Hatterthon. Likewise for Patrick Jacobson, his brother Will, father Paul Jacobson and mother Karen Fisher.

An emotional Fisher told the gathering the story of her three sons – triplets who were born premature at 26 weeks in 2008. Son Hunter passed away after four days, but Patrick and Will survived.

The Palmer hospital’s “top-of-the-line incubators in its NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) were donated by kids dancing,” she said. “What you are doing here is so incredible. It’s our honor to say thank you from all of the kids and families.”

Various awards were announced by members of the Hatterthon management team at the event’s conclusion, including:

Top Fundraiser: Kelly Wu, who raised $6,504

Team Awards
• Most Improved Team: Phi Alpha Delta
• Rising Star Team: Kappa Alpha Theta
• Miracle Cup — Hope (given to small organizations): the Alumni Team
• Miracle Cup — Healing (mid-size organizations): Phi Alpha Delta
• Miracle Cup — Compassion (large organizations): Alpha Chi Omega

Most Spirited Awards
• Most Spirited Emerging Captain: Hannah Campen
• Most Spirited Morale Captain: Jonathan Bishop
• Most Spirited Team Captain: Taylor Tantaquidgeon
• Most Spirited Alumni: Tara Tovkach
• Most Spirited Miracle Maker: Skye Cronje
• Bellah South Bravery Award: Kelly Wu

Rick de Yampert