When senior Sarah Penoyer was making her decision on what college to pursue, the McIntosh High School student knew she wanted to dedicate her time to a service organization.
“Growing up, I had friends who were treated at the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, and I’ve also seen adults in my life being treated at Emory,” said the marketing and management information systems major. “Seeing them go through that and how scared they were—made me think of kids who were in similar situations.”
Penoyer came in as a first-year and hit the ground running as a morale leader in GC Miracle. As one of 30 morale leaders, she taught dances at the annual Dance Marathon fundraiser and helped others connect with the mission of the organization.
“A lot of the times, we’re seeing families on their worst day,” said Penoyer. “What keeps me going is seeing how even on those days, the families and children are still so kind and hopeful. Knowing that I can be there on their journey and help in any way, is really rewarding for me.”
GC Miracle, a group of around 250 students, partners with the Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital Navicent Health. Over the course of 14 years, the organization has raised a little over $1 million for the hospital. The Georgia College Miracle Activity Room was recently named in honor of the fundraising efforts of the student organization.
Kristy Johnson, assistant director for Community Engagement, has been the organization’s advisor for four years. Johnson isn’t surprised by the amount the group continues to raise for the hospital. In fact, she’s bore witness to a time the group managed to raise $10,000 in less than two hours for a particular fundraiser.
“My absolute favorite part is watching these students grow into leaders. I work with some of them for two or three years and get to see where they started and be there along the way,” said Johnson. “By the time they graduate, they have grown into capable and compassionate individuals who are truly engaged and ready to give back to society. At that moment, I feel as though Georgia College has truly done our job.”
Penoyer and others in GC Miracle have spent hours in the Activity Room letting kids be kids.
“With the GIVE Center, we get to see all these other organizations and hear what they’re doing and bounce ideas off one another,” said Peynor. “I think a large part of the focus on service at Georgia College comes from the fact that students come here for the liberal arts experience—and they get that by doing service.”
Penoyer and a group of more than 30 students attended the ribbon cutting of the Activity Room Friday, Feb. 1 at the Children’s Hospital.
“It’s easy to look back and think ‘We’re just building a building’,” said Penoyer. “But it’s more than just a building or hospital. Families will rejoice here, cry here, pray here and lives are going to be saved. Seeing our name on the room is a really cool way of leaving a legacy at a hospital that means so much to the community.”