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Involvement changes lives

April 5, 2016

PETM student well aware of Riley Hospital's role.

As president of the IUPUI Jagathon, Pirtle has learned a lot about the contributions of Riley Hospital for Children in people's lives, and that knowledge has motivated him to help Riley raise funds to help young patients.

Darrell Pirtle didn't participate in student organizations his freshman year. Now a senior in the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management, he cites that as one of his biggest mistakes.

"Who knows who else I could have impacted?" said Pirtle, the president of Jagathon, IUPUI's dance marathon benefiting Riley Hospital for Children.  

Since joining the Jagathon committee in his sophomore year, Darrell has impacted countless students and families, helping to raise well over $100,000 for Riley Hospital. The experience has changed him forever as well, exposing him to travel, education and a career path he wasn't anticipating.

Pirtle, an exercise science major, joined the kinesiology Themed Learning Community, or TLC, his freshman year, planning to focus on academics and getting the grades he needed to become an athletic trainer. By his second year, he wanted more than the classroom for his college experience. He reached out to his TLC mentor, who encouraged him to join her on the Jagathon committee. He did, and he found a community of students committed to giving back and having fun.

He took on more responsibility within the committee in his junior year, and when it was time to select a president for his final year, he put in his name for consideration. "I got to see what you can do when you have time, when you have passion, when you have drive, when you want to give back to something," Pirtle said. "I really wanted to come back, but I didn't just want to come back -- I wanted to make an impact."

Inspired by his experience as well as what he learned attending dance marathons on other campuses and a national dance marathon conference, Pirtle began to make changes to the committee's culture. He led them in creating a strategic plan for Jagathon, something he'd never encountered before, and empowered his VPs to select and lead their own subcommittees.

And, reflecting on his own experiences, he decided to make freshmen a fundamental component of his committee. The Jagathon team attended JagBlast throughout the summer during orientation, recruiting incoming students to be active on the committee from day one.  

All of these initiatives are paying off for Pirtle and for Jagathon.

The 2015-16 campaign was the most successful in the dance marathon's history, and Pirtle has found a new passion and career path in higher-education student affairs. A chance meeting with IUPUI's vice chancellor for student affairs reminded Pirtle that his dance marathon experience doesn't have to end when he graduates. Starting with an internship with the IU Foundation this summer, he will undoubtedly continue to impact IUPUI, Indianapolis and beyond.

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