When the University of Connecticut (UConn) hosted its 21st annual HuskyTHON Dance Marathon in February, it was just before the COVID-19 pandemic became front-page news. Under the leadership of Executive Director Emma Kryzanski, the UConn students took fundraising to a whole new level. The 2020 HuskyTHON dance marathon capped a year-long fundraising effort that broke all previous records and generated more than $1.5 million in support of patient care at Connecticut Children’s.
For Emma, who got involved in HuskyTHON as a college freshman, the mission has been the ultimate labor of love. Rising through the ranks with increased levels of responsibility over the past four years, Emma was recognized this spring by the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH), of which Connecticut Children’s is a part.
HuskyTHON Leadership Award
The Burlington, Connecticut, resident was one of 25 students from 300 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada selected for the 2020 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award. The award recognizes students who have made an exceptional impact within their Dance Marathon program, on their individual campus and for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.
“Being selected as one of the 2020 CMNH Dance Marathon Distinguished Leaders is such an immense honor,” said Emma, who personally raised nearly $19,000 for Connecticut Children’s in her four years of involvement. “The HuskyTHON community and CMNH Dance Marathon were so important to my time as an undergraduate in terms of my development, happiness, and sense of belonging. So, to be named a Distinguished Leader within a movement so near and dear to my heart means the world to me. I am proud to have been able to contribute to Connecticut Children’s, UConn, and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through HuskyTHON.”
Emma’s Care Journey
Emma is no stranger to Connecticut Children’s. “My care at Connecticut Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders began when I was 9 months old, and it actually just recently came to a close this year,” she said.
A blood disorder, known as hereditary spherocytosis, caused her immune system to destroy blood cells and work overtime to protect her. It also put her spleen at risk for rupture and her body at risk for extreme fatigue. But through it all, Emma’s doctors, nurses and other medical professionals at Connecticut Children’s made sure she was confident and comfortable every step of the way.
“My hematologist made sure that my parents and I knew what dangerous symptoms to look out for. ‘Were my hemoglobin levels low?’ ‘Was I more tired than usual?’ ‘Were my eyes jaundiced?’ ‘Did I have any abdominal pain?’ Because we knew what to look for, I could still play sports, go to school, and hang out with friends—I could still live like a normal kid,” she said.
2020 UConn HuskyTHON
“I often reflect on how my care at Connecticut Children’s not only made me healthy enough to go to college and continue an active and involved lifestyle, but also how it inspired me to pursue my own career in medicine,” said Emma, who majored in Physiology and Neurobiology at UConn.
“When I heard about HuskyTHON, a dance marathon and year-long fundraising initiative benefiting this hospital I hold so dear, I knew I had to get involved,” she said. “Allowing me to play a part in ensuring that countless kids and families at Connecticut Children’s are so positively impacted as me and mine were, HuskyTHON gave me a place for my passion to grow.”
“Working with the Management Team, our advisors, and Connecticut Children’s to create a movement and community is easily the highlight of my experience at UConn,” she added.
In 2020, HuskyTHON’s mission was to “Brighten Tomorrow” —and that it did. On Saturday February 22, some 41 Connecticut Children’s Miracle Family patients and their families joined 3,200 students for the 18-hour event held in the Hugh S. Greer Fieldhouse on the Storrs campus. The final “reveal” came on February 23, when the 28-member UConn Management Team led by Emma, unveiled an amazing, record-breaking fundraising total of $1,520,234.98.
READ MORE: UConn Students Celebrate 41 Miracle Families
The dedication and hard work of the UConn students did not go unnoticed. In her State of the Network 2020 address, Teri Nestel, CMNH Interim President and CEO, recognized HuskyTHON for its significant contribution toward last year’s overall dance marathon program fundraising total of nearly $43 million.
“HuskyTHON—the University of Connecticut’s Dance Marathon Program—was a bright spot in that total,” Ms. Nestel said. “They raised just over $1.5 million for Connecticut Children’s—a 14 percent increase over the prior year. And the students at UConn continue to be leaders for the entire dance marathon community.”
2020 UConn Graduate
Emma, the daughter of David and Jodi Kryzanski, graduated from the University of Connecticut on May 10, 2020. “Because of COVID-19, our graduation ceremony was virtual, and my family and I celebrated by watching the ceremony at home together,” said Emma, who has an older brother, Daniel, and a younger sister, Grace. “My parents put together a surprise parade for me, and my extended family and friends drove by to help me celebrate.”
“In August, I will begin the M.D. program at University of Connecticut School of Medicine and my road toward becoming a physician,” Emma said. “While I am still unsure of what kind of doctor I will be, I know that I want to use my profession to provide better health care to the medically underserved.”
“I aspire to be a physician who makes her patients as comfortable and confident in their health as mine at Connecticut Children’s did for me,” she said.