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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

  • Sara Pollin stands with one of her "miracle families" in a gymnasium at the Dance Marathon Main Event 2019.

Leading the dance: Retailing student works hard for kids

By Allen Wallace,
Posted on February 27, 2020

Retailing major Sara Pollin is a star. An outstanding student, she receives rave reviews from faculty and earned an internship with the legendary Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City in the summer of 2019. Those things alone would be a resume to be proud of for the 2020 senior, but for Pollin, it’s only a part.

She has also played a key role on a University of South Carolina Dance Marathon team which has raised nearly $3 million in her three years so far for Prisma Health Children’s Hospital, and could add another million or more when this year’s total is revealed at the student organization’s Main Event on Feb. 29.

Pollin joined Dance Marathon as a freshman and has become a leader, serving for the last two years as director of family relations, a role which gives her perhaps the most direct connection of anyone to the children and families who are the reason for the students’ hard work.

“I serve as a liaison between UofSCDM and the miracle families.” Pollin says. “Miracle families are people who have been impacted by Prisma Health. I work with them as an advocate for their stories and experiences while actively supporting them in their everyday life.”

UofSC Dance Marathon fully funds the Child Life Department at Prisma Health. That department is devoted to making hospital stays as pleasant as possible for kids and their families. Child Life specialists provide the kids with music and dog therapy, coloring books and crafts, wagons, capes, wands, birthday and holiday celebrations, and much more. Dance Marathon volunteers like Pollin not only lead the way in fundraising, but also give their time to visit the hospital and become part of the kids’ lives during and after their treatment. They babysit. They go to birthday parties. They host events for the kids. Miracle kids have been in the weddings of UofSCDM alumni.

The cause means much more than fundraising, and especially for a leader like Pollin, it becomes very nearly a full-time job, done as a volunteer while managing school and the rest of the life of a college student. It is not easy, but when asked why she does it, the answer comes easily.

“As cheesy as it sounds, the kids are my number one driver of my hard work. Whenever I start feeling discouraged or thinking what I am doing in the current moment might not matter, I think about the times I spend with these kids and the positive outlook on life they carry with them,” Pollin says. “I am able to give so much time to DM because I believe in the cause and because of the people I get to do it with. When you are hanging out with your best friends doing something for other people, it is not that hard to find time to give.”

UofSCDM is the university’s largest student-run philanthropy, with more than 2,000 students involved. While not every classroom lesson Pollin has learned is directly applicable to her role as director of family relations, the opportunity to be a leader of what is essentially a quite large nonprofit organization has served her well, providing another avenue for the experiential learning that is a crucial part of the mission of the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management.

“DM has definitely given me ways to develop my professionalism in ways such as effectively leading a group of people, working cross-functionally across an organization, and tracking progress through the utilization of Excel,” Pollin says. “The skills I have gained and strengthened will help me when I enter into my post-graduate professional career.”

Former UofSC President Harris Pastides was so impressed by the work of the UofSCDM team that he offered to write a personal letter of recommendation for each of them, whether for a job or graduate school. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has issued a proclamation honoring the students in each of the last three years. In the classroom, as an intern, and as a community leader, Pollin has put together a truly outstanding college career. With graduation in sight, she says she would tell the next generation that every bit of the hard work was worth it.

“It has given me real life skills that will translate into my professional career, a passion for helping my community, as well as a support system of people who genuinely want to see me succeed and push me to do so.”

Learn more about the Department of Retailing.

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