The Power of Philanthropy
By Surya Mehta
Ryan Lightner, Children’s Miracle Network’s program coordinator, is a cheerful and impactful man who has been working as a philanthropist for the past seven years. Starting with an unexpected internship with the Children’s Miracle Network at his local children’s hospital, Lightner’s journey to philanthropy is inspiring. Miracle Network is an organization of around 170 hospitals that focus on raising money for children and their hospital treatment. Although the Network thrives all throughout North America, Lightner’s goal is to set up local fundraisers and contribute funds directly to the children of the community. His work as a liaison and event coordinator help provide the children with better treatment and care in the hospitals. His driven and compassionate work ethic and personality have helped to improve the lives of many children across North America.
As the program coordinator, Lightner serves as a liaison between the hospital, the community, and the national network. However, he did not always see himself becoming a philanthropist. At Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, he studied political science and communications. Near the end of his college years, he began to doubt his passion for politics. His communications professor, a woman named Carol, advised him to apply for an internship at the Children’s Miracle Network at his local children’s hospital. His first event was a telethon, an event that brings children and the community together to spend time with each other. The event has dancing, games, and other activities. Lightner wasn’t sure what to expect, but Carol promised him that he’d feel something special at the telethon. Sure enough, from his first experience, he knew that the Miracle Network was the place for him.
As part of the Charlottesville community, Lightner helps with the University of Virginia’s annual Hoothon, an event of the Children’s Miracle Network's Charlottesville chapter whose money goes directly to the UVA Children’s Hospital. Hoothon holds many events throughout the year that fundraise and raise awareness for the Miracle Network children. Lightner explains that these events are of vital importance and a growing need. He continues to describe that “your children’s hospital needs philanthropy to continue to practice, and people don't always realize this.” One of the biggest events is the Hoothon Dance Marathon, a celebration of children filled with dancing, games, music, food, and more. This year, the Dance Marathon is on April 21st, 2018, and many UVA students attend. At the marathon, the energy is high with the goal of keeping active for 10 hours. But most importantly, miracle kids that have been treated come and join the students for the 10 hours, from 12:00pm to 10:00pm, of excitement and celebration. It is a wonderful way for the community to connect with the kids and celebrate them. For Lightner, the best part is seeing the positive impact on the hospital children and students alike. He sees them build relationships with each other and connect on a personal level. Some students enjoy helping so much that they return to the marathons after they graduate from the university. Lightner explains that the marathon’s message is to promote relationships and fundraise money, but the most important part is to have fun and bring positivity into everyone’s lives. His hope is to inspire students and children to pass on this message to future generations.
Lightner’s work in networking, storytelling, and making impressions has gotten him where he is today. His bright personality and quirky anecdotes connect him with people in a special way, always making them smile. He embraces himself and others with open arms, saying that “we’re all a little strange. I think we have to be”. This positive and optimistic perspective shows his kind heart. Lightner truly believes in others to make the world a better place, and this belief has become a passion. He makes sure to not only practice philanthropy himself, but also to promote it to younger generations. Although work takes up a lot of his time, Lightner recently has focused on meaningful conversation and positive relationships to improve the balance between work and outside life. Simply put, in both work and in general, Lightner is a jolly, family-oriented individual who enjoys genuine and positive interaction.
Ryan Lightner’s work in philanthropy has impacted many children, allowing them to receive better treatment and care at children’s hospitals across the country. But more than that, his caring and excited personality demonstrates his hope for the world. He serves as an inspiration for younger generations not only to pursue philanthropy, but also to show compassion, respect, and consideration to others.
If you are inspired by Ryan Lightner's work, please donate below to create miracles for children in the hospital.