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Thursday, October 28, 2021

A few weeks ago, the editorial board was invited to take a tour of UF Health Shands Hospital, specifically the pediatric units after we wrote the editorial, “What does it mean to do it ‘For The Kids’?” In the editorial, we posed questions we felt were not readily available to the general public concerning Dance Marathon at UF, such as how exactly money raised by DM is utilized. As a result, Shands representatives reached out to give us these answers and provide more transparency on how the money is spent in the children’s hospital.

On Wednesday afternoon, two of the four members of the editorial board took a tour of Shands with several individuals: three DM at UF representatives, a hospital representative and Ed Jimenez, the chief executive officer of Shands, with his two interns.

Throughout the tour, doctors and nurses spoke about how money from DM at UF is used to buy and fund multiple parts of the pediatric units of the hospital. The Shands representatives stressed the importance of giving comfort to families and the health of the children at the hospital. We were shown renovated wings with private spaces for parents and newborns, newly bought incubators and other miscellaneous, but important, equipment for the health of premature babies and the children in the heart center. We were told that any balloon-shaped stickers on incubators or equipment meant DM at UF money helped pay for those items. However, we were not taken close enough to the hospital equipment to see the balloons, the babies or their names tags because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which is a privacy law regarding medical information.

Jimenez said when he speaks at the annual DM, he tells the audience they are welcome to take tours with him. We were told later in a phone call with Jimenez that our tour was similar to tours given to other participants of DM at UF.

Jimenez also discussed how money raised by DM at UF is used to subsidize the building and items that were needed to improve the children’s hospital. He explained when the neonatal ICU was built, about $1 million raised by DM at UF last year was used in addition to about $20 million provided by the hospital.

On our tour, we also learned how DM files its 990 tax form. DM at UF is not a 501(c)(3), which means it has not been approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization. Instead, Shands pays to be a Children’s Miracle Network hospital, allowing it to be a separate entity and submit tax forms through this network. In 2017, Shands Hospital had a total revenue of more than $1.4 billion, according to its 990 tax forms. DM at UF donations are not used to pay for this membership. This is different from DM organizations at other universities which sometimes have to file their taxes separately because they’re smaller.

In the first editorial we wrote about DM at UF, we questioned the practice of using Venmo, a mobile payment service, to raise money, stating it is not a system that allows for complete accountability between the donator and the fundraiser. In the phone call, we asked for Jimenez’s thoughts on the practice, and he agreed the question should be addressed in the next DM cycle.

After we wrote our follow-up editorial on DM at UF, we received an email response from the executive director for DM, Madison Grasty, on questions we asked. We were told the total amount raised this year by DM at UF, $3.2 million, was the total after the deduction of costs for each DM event. DM national guidelines recommend events cost no more than 10 cents per every dollar raised. UF operates under that amount at a 6-cent-to-the-dollar ratio, Grasty said.

We spoke with doctors and nurses about how much DM money meant to them throughout the tour, and it was clear how passionate those who work at Shands are about their patients. In the end, we did get answers to our questions, like how DM at UF funds events and specific examples of how money is spent at the children’s hospital. We did receive the transparency we thought was important. However, it did take time and multiple requests. We included all of these facts to be able to relay to you the same level of transparency we have received within the past week.

The Alligator editorial board includes the opinions editor Michaela Mulligan, editor-in-chief Paige Fry and managing editors Christina Morales and Amanda Rosa.

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