Abigail Kurdin is For the Kids

Over $212,000 was raised last April at UMass


Courtesy of Abigail Curdin

By Cassie McGrath, Collegian Staff

At the University of Massachusetts, For the Kids is more than just another Registered Student Organization. Student members are dedicated to helping hundreds of sick children in Baystate Children’s Hospital every year.

Many students get involved in either FTK UMass or the group’s dance marathon fundraiser for different reasons. For some it is because they have a sick sibling. Others are dedicated to making a positive impact in college. For sophomore resource economics major Abigail Kurdin, her involvement stems from her personal experience in the hospital as a child.

“When I was four years old, I fell off the monkey bars one day and I guess I got knocked out, so they did X-rays and CT scans and found out that I was born with something called Chiari malformation,” explained Kurdin. “Basically, my brain was growing into my spinal cord and spinal column causing pressure. If they hadn’t found it, I could have been paralyzed today.”

Kurdin received brain surgery at Dayton Children’s Hospital, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in Ohio. She made a full recovery and went on to have a healthy childhood. Eight years later, Kurdin was reintroduced to the hospital.

“When I was 12, I got nominated at my hospital to be a child ambassador there, so I did a lot of fundraising events, and…they had a dance marathon there as well so I got involved in that. It was funny, it came full circle,” Kurdin said, adding that she is still friends with the families of other child ambassadors.

When coming to UMass, Kurdin knew that she wanted to get involved in FTK. “Last year I was involved with Morale, which is kind of like hyping people up and you are involved in fundraising. But this year I am on Steering and I am doing Special Events, so I am helping with all the ‘Give Back Nights’ – mini fundraisers leading up to the night.”

Steering and Special Events are individual committees within FTK UMass that improve student involvement, advertising, social media and marketing with the UMass community, according to the official website.

The efforts of FTK UMass culminate in a 12-hour dance marathon held each spring. According to their website, 1,751 students participated last April, raising over $212,000 for the kids at Baystate Children’s Hospital. This money was used toward a new wing in the hospital.

Nicole Boyson, junior psychology and communications major, is the co-club sports team relations chair on the FTK UMass steering board. “Last year when Abby [Kurdin] was on Morale, she came to one of our meetings and was comfortable enough to share her story with us. That was really inspiring, and I think it’s cool for her to be able to connect with the kids through their similar experience.”

Junior nursing major Taylor Anderson has participated in the dance marathon for the past two  years. Her favorite part is when the miracle children visit.

“Some of the teams at the marathon raise enough money to have a miracle child. Ours was Momo, one of the kids at Baystate Hospital,” Anderson recalled. “She was so cute and sweet. It was really touching seeing her there and realizing that she is just a kid like we all were. It was such a great experience.”

At the end of the day, Kurdin is nothing but thankful for her health and the contribution that FTK has made in her life.

“I had brain surgery, but I am okay,” said Kurdin. “I came out with a really positive outcome, so I feel like I can’t not think that way. Especially seeing Baystate and all the people around the world and CMN people are not doing well, so I am so grateful to be healthy.”

Kurdin’s final words were an encouragement to get involved. “Join FTK, register. It really makes a difference.”

Cassie McGrath can be reached at [email protected]