An 18-year-old Seymour High School graduate has been recognized for her leadership, character and willingness to raise money for a good cause.
Hannah Romero De Gante recently was named one of 12 students to be included in the Next Generation Philanthropists Class of 2020 by the Riley Children’s Foundation.
She was chosen for the honor for her involvement with the SHS Riley Dance Marathon program.
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In 2019, the school raised $21,669.38 through their fundraising efforts, led by students, surpassing their goal of $15,000. In six years, the school has raised more than $100,000 for Riley Hospital for Children in support of pediatric research.
This year’s class of Next Generation Philanthropists came from across the Hoosier state, where 68 high schools, including Seymour, Brownstown Central and Trinity Lutheran, participated in Riley Dance Marathon during the 2019-20 school year.
Being a Latino student, De Gante led an effort to increase engagement in the SHS Dance Marathon within the local Hispanic community.
For the FTK (For the Kids) 5K Walk/Run fundraiser, she translated all promotions and announcements for the event from English to Spanish, giving more people the opportunity to learn about Riley and support its mission.
“Although breaking the language barrier may seem small, I believe that my inclusive efforts made an impactful difference in our current fundraising efforts and for many years to come,” she said.
De Gante first became involved in Riley Dance Marathon by attending the big event her freshman year. She saw it as a way to be involved in extracurricular school activities, but more importantly as a way to give back and make an impact on the lives of others.
After that first Dance Marathon, De Gante committed herself to do more. She joined the Dance Marathon committee and this past school year served as vice president.
“I was soon moved to continue to participate in every way that I could after I saw the great experience and powerful impact that it had on those who were or are affected by Riley Dance Marathon,” she said.
She raised funds on her own, helped organize and attended fundraising events, spread awareness, contacted past Riley patients to be speakers for different functions, reached out to local businesses and donors to ask for support, hosted committee meetings and attended conferences.
Her reason to stay involved in Dance Marathon also is personal.
“Riley Hospital for Children has a place near and dear to my heart,” she said. “I was a patient at Riley a few months after I was born.”
Although she was too young to remember the experience, De Gante said her parents have always spoken of the endless kindness of the doctors, nurses and staff at the hospital during that time.
De Gante’s cousin’s young son, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, also was a Riley patient, and they had the opportunity to share his story at the SHS Dance Marathon and thank the students for all they do to support the hospital.
“I view my participation in Dance Marathon as a way to give back to a hospital and organization that was there for me and my family as well as other countless families who have been impacted by Riley Hospital for Children,” De Gante said.
Since starting Dance Marathon six years ago, SHS has become a top fundraiser for the hospital and has helped create numerous student leaders. There is never a shortage of students wanting to participate.
“Riley fundraising programs and fundraisers allow for any student to branch out and begin involvement in a school extracurricular activity,” she said. “Not only does it allow for students to grow in their involvement, but it also allows for them to gain or strengthen certain skills.”
It’s also a way to be of service to others, she added.
Having learned from her parents the importance and value of giving back to those in need, De Gante said she tries to do as they have taught her.
“The cause alone is what motivated me to step up and continue to be involved in Riley fundraising efforts,” she said. “I personally know that many families are impacted by Riley in one way or another; therefore, it is moving to see how many students and members of our community are willing to contribute and spread awareness to such a great cause.”
Although she’s young, De Gante said there is no age limit to philanthropy. It’s a lesson she learned through Dance Marathon.
“You have the humble pride in knowing that you could make a difference in someone else’s life, even at a young age,” she said.
De Gante will attend Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis this fall with plans to major in health sciences to pursue a career in occupational therapy with a focus on patients with special needs.
She is motivated to continue her efforts for Riley at college and has joined the Jagathon, which is IUPUI’s version of Dance Marathon. She applied and recently was accepted to join the Jagathon’s Family Relations Committee, which focuses on serving as a liaison between the college and Riley families.
“My participation in Dance Marathon made me realize how much of a difference someone my age could make,” she said. “It is truly heartwarming to see young people my age be so motivated to help others.”
Besides her parents, De Gante said another mentor who supported and guided her involvement in Dance Marathon was SHS teacher Kelly Reasoner, who serves as the sponsor for the program.
“I wouldn’t have received the award I did without her continuing and committed efforts in helping the program,” De Gante said.
Being vice president, De Gante also relied on the support of SHS Dance Marathon President Luke Turner.
“We have accomplished so much together in our efforts to support the program,” she said.
Wise beyond her years, De Gante advises students to never give up on an opportunity to help others.
“You never know just how big your impact can be on them,” she said. “Although fundraising efforts take time and commitment, I promise that it is worth every second that is put into the program for others truly benefit from your efforts.”