Devon Leasure and Mariya Markova: Shaving Heads for Dance Marathon

Name: Devon LeasureAge: 18Year: freshmanMajor: political science  Hometown: Jacksonville, FL

Name: Mariya Markova  Age: 19Year: freshmanMajor: financeHometown: St. Petersburg, FL

Her Campus: How did you get involved with Dance Marathon?Devon Leasure: “I became involved in Dance Marathon as soon as I stepped foot at UF. It surrounds you and you can’t help but be a part of it. My Greek chapter is extremely involved in and passionate about this amazing organization. My roommate is a Dance Marathon captain. There is no escaping it here.”Mariya Markova: “My involvement with DM began with being highly encouraged to participate in my sorority, but as I talked to more and more people I realized how much more I wanted to be involved than the minimum.”

HC: Your challenge is that if you raise a combined about of $15,000 by Dance Marathon (on March 15-16, 2015) you two will shave your heads. How did you come up with this idea?DL: “Sitting inside of Zaxby’s for a Dance Marathon hospitality night, Mariya and I decided that we needed to do something drastic to get peoples attention and increase the amount of awareness and fundraising that we were raising for Dance Marathon.”MM: “We decided to create shaving our heads for DM as an incentive for people to donate because although we continually kept posting on social media and sending out emails, we weren't getting much response. We decided we needed something to prompt a response and get people interested. This happened to be it!”  

HC: What has the reception been for this challenge?DL: “When we tell people what we are doing and why, most of them look at us like we are crazy. Why would two young girls want to cut off their hair? That’s just the thing. We don’t WANT to cut our hair; we want to make a statement that this student-run philanthropy is something worth sacrificing for and it is much bigger than ourselves. We are raising awareness for children who deserve our time, love and attention. After talking with people, they admire and respect the cause and are much more interested. It is amazing how many people we have reached out to that may not otherwise know about Dance Marathon if it weren’t for two crazy girls threatening to shave their heads.”MM: “Some people on campus have actually walked up to me saying ‘Aren't you that girl who...’ We have been approached and interviewed by some local news stations and the campus newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator. People have donated to my page that I haven't spoken to in months, some maybe even years. Nationally, our story made it all the way to Boston! Although we have received much national attention, it just goes to show that DM as a whole is being recognized more and looked into by some people who wouldn't have seen the event otherwise.” 

HC: How close are you to your fundraising goal?DL: “We have two main goals: increase awareness for Dance Marathon and raise $15,000. Although we still have a way to go, the increased awareness and curiosity that we have sparked is immeasurable.”MM: “We aren't very close to our goal at this very moment. We aren't close at all to be honest... over $13,000 left to go. However, we are talking about ways to amp it up as the DM event comes closer. We definitely want to reach our goal so whatever it takes!”

HC: What other things are you involved in on campus?DL: “At the University of Florida, I am involved in a Student Government agency called Chomp the Vote. I am also the activities and involvement chair for my respective Greek chapter and the chapter delegate for the Junior Panhellenic Council. I am also proud to be a Florida Greek Ambassador.”MM: “I am currently volunteering at Shands Hospital, am involved in the UF Honors Program and their blogging program, and Delta Delta Delta.”

HC: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?DL: “In 10 years, I see myself working as an adoption lawyer. I will travel to underdeveloped countries and inspire change and hope in the lives of others.”MM: “In 10 years I see myself working in the business part of a hospital and hopefully finding a way to change lives!”

HC: What is your dream job?DL: “My dream job would be working for a non-profit organization that aids underdeveloped nations and victims of extreme poverty... or the vice president of the United States.”MM: “My absolute dream job would to be a pediatric oncologist, but then again my absolute dream would be to not see little children suffering at all, so it's a hard medium to work with.”

HC: Who is your role model?DL: “My three role models are Ellen Degeneres, my mom and my dad, for very similar reasons. Each of these people inspires me to be a better person. I have been taught all of my life to devote myself to worthy causes and help others when it is in my power to do so. From these people, I have learned generosity, kindness and patience. I aspire to develop the qualities that they possess naturally.”MM: “Although I think I've told her before, she probably doesn't believe it. The person I really look up to I actually just recently met here at UF: Kelsey Torgerson. So many different reasons but one of them being her enthusiasm and passion for not only everything she's a part of, but life in general. I love it.”

HC: What advice would you give to new students?DL: “My advice to new students would be to completely immerse yourself in the UF community. There are countless opportunities to get involved in anything that you are passionate about and it is up to you to seek out the information and resources to obtain those opportunities.”MM: “Things get easier. I was so homesick when I first came to UF, and I live only two and a half hours away. But you can quickly find your niche here by simply exploring! Find more things to admire other than your GPA; I promise UF has so many of them to offer.”

HC: What is your favorite memory at UF so far?DL: “My favorite memory at UF so far was taking my dad to the South Carolina football game and spending the weekend with him. I loved showing him around Gainesville because I am so proud of the school that I attend.”MM: “I haven't been at UF long enough to say I have 100 favorite memories to choose from, but weirdly enough my favorite memory was the first time I walked into Shands. That place is a maze! It's my favorite mostly because as I was walking in I saw a little girl (noticeably sick) come out with the biggest smile ever. After a hard first semester, that moment sort of just put a lot in perspective for me.”

You can donate to the cause at either Devon or Mariya’s personal Dance Marathon pages.