April 23, 2016

Exec Team

Steven Payne

Overall Co-Chair

Greetings, all! My name is Steven Payne and I am a senior Health Services Administration major from Sioux Falls, SD. I first became involved with Dakotahon my sophomore year as a dancer and was amazed to find out how much of a difference this organization makes in the lives of so many. The children and families that Dakotathon supports serve as a true inspiration to us all. Last year I was fortunate enough to serve as the Technology Chair on the Exec Team and had a blast working with my peers to continue to grow Dakotathon into an even larger and more successful organization. This year I am serving as one of the Overall Co-Chairs and have some fantastic ideas to implement into this year's Dakotathon!

Wondering how to get involved with Dakotathon? Please feel free to email me at Steven.Payne@usd.edu or call/text (605)-261-1623.


Ashlin Peitzmeler

Overall Co-Chair


My name is Ashlin Peitzmeier and I am a senior at the University of South Dakota. I have been involved with Dakotathon since I was a freshman and let me tell you, it has been the most AMAZING experience. I started off as a Dancer, and then moved onto a Morale Captain, and then I continued my journey with Dakotathon as I served as the Family Relations Chair on the Executive Board for my junior year. For my last year at USD, I am honored to be serving as the Co-Overall Chair for USD Dakotathon - the largest philanthropy organization on USD’s campus! Dakotathon is such an inspiring and rewarding organization. It has been by far the best part of my college experience.

I dance for the families, I dance for CMN, and I especially dance for those who can’t!

As we say here at USD, “HAPPY DM!!”

Josh Rogers

Sponsorship Co-Chair

My name is Josh Rogers and I am a senior Medical Biology major from Fort Pierre, SD. I first became involved with Dakotathon my freshman year as a dancer. It was such an amazing experience I knew I had to get more involved in such an impactful organization. We make a difference in the children and families lives, but more importantly they make a difference in our lives. The miracle children are the bravest individuals I have ever met. Seeing them smile and laugh helps me realize the important things in life. This will be my 4th year participating in Dakotathon and I could not be more excited for what the up incoming year has to offer. FTK!

Nicole Plueger

Sponsorship Co-Chair

My name is, Nicole Plueger and I am a senior at USD studying Nursing! I am one of the three co- chairs for the executive sponsorship role. The reason that I participate in Dakotathon is not only to raise money to support the families and children but to give them a fun day that they can remember and just enjoy! One of the things this year, which I am excited for would be to meet and support new families along with the ones we have worked with in the past!

Robert McCauley

Sponsorship Co-Chair

I am a sophomore from Primghar, IA majoring in Nursing. Coming to college I knew that I wanted to be involved in Dakotathon. Last year I took that ambition and became a Morale Captain and had the time of my life! Hearing and seeing the work of Children's Miracle Network inspires me everyday! I dance with the hope that one day everyone will be able to do the same!

Taylor Vavra

Finance Chair

My name is Taylor Vavra and I am a senior this year. I am majoring in marketing and minoring in Spanish. I have been involved in several student organizations over the past few years like Dakota Days and Coyoteopoly. However, I am so excited to be a part of the Dakotathon Executive board because I know I am a part of something bigger than myself. I am so excited to be helping to make a major change in a child’s life. Happy DM!!

Kate Turner

Event Fundraising Co-Chair

FOR THE KIDS!! This is my second year on Dakotathon Exec and I could not be more excited. My co-chair and I have some awesome events planned for this year and to that I say, "Let the fun being!" Seeing the Miracle Children light up as they arrive and see everyone is a sight that can't even be glorified by words. After staying awake for 24-hours you see a giant total that puts into perspective the amount of miracles you made happen, the laughs you've given and the happiness you've shared in - it's incredible. To me, it's the best all-nighter you'll EVER pull in college.

Audrey Truhe

Event Fundraising Co-Chair

Hi! My name is Audrey Truhe and I am this year’s Events/Fundraising Co-Chair. I am a sophomore from Elk Point, SD majoring in Elementary Education here at the University of South Dakota. As a freshman, being involved in Dance Marathon was one of the best decisions I made. This is my first year at USD and I couldn’t be more excited to be a coyote and join Dakotathon! I love having Dance Marathon in my life to celebrate with the CMN families and to see the smiles on the Miracle Children’s faces. I dance for more laughs, more birthdays, and for the children dancing in our hearts. FTK!

Robby Jeffries

Technology Chair

Hey everyone! My name is Robby Jeffries and I am a senior Sport Management major from good ole Fort Pierre, SD. I first became involved with Dakotathon during my sophomore year where I was a dancer. It ended up being the best expierence I had had at college to date so the following year I participated again as a morale captain. Getting more involved only deepend my passion for Dakotathon. This year I am fortunate to be on the executive team as the technology chair for the big event. I cannot be more excited for that day to come and wish you all a very Happy DM!


Lucy Benitez

Marketing Chair


Art Education/ Art History Major

I love Dakotathon because of all the wonderful things we are able to accomplish for the kids when we all work together! It's great to spend the day with the kids and see just how much everything we do helps them :) 

Krissy Zalud

Morale Co-Chair

I'm Krissy Zalud, a junior Medical Bilogy major from Vermillion, SD. My heartfelt dream is to become a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating cancer in children. My career goals first motivated me to participate in Dakotathon. As an freshman, it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children before I was even practicing medicine. Dakotathon turned out to be so much more--a time to celebrate the miracle children, network with other students, and gain perspective regarding what is truly important in life. It's a humbling experience, and I'm incredibly honored to serve as a member of exec for a group supporting such a worthy cause. The kids truly are my heroes. Let's make this Dakotathon the best one yet! FTK!

Joey Snyder

Morale Co-Chair

My name is Joey Snyder and I am a junior Finance major from Pierre, SD. Other organizations I am involved in are Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, Sorority & Fraternity Life Ambassadors, and intramural sports. I became involved with Dakothathon my freshman year as a dancer, and participated as a Morale Captain last year. I could not be more excited to be one of the Morale Chairs for this year’s exec team! Dakotathon has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Not only do you have the opportunity to help the most amazing kids and their families, but you get the wonderful chance to learn from them as well. It is through Dakotathon that I have been able to grow as a person and realize the truly important things in life. I highly encourage anyone and everyone to be a part of this amazing, rewarding experience. You never know the difference you can make until you do. I can’t wait to make this year’s Dakotathon the best one yet! I dance for miracles, for more birthdays, and for those who can’t! FTK!

Sara Hedges

Entertainment Co-Chair

Hey! My Name is Sarah Hedges and I am this year’s co-entertainment chair! I am a senior psychology major on the pre-med track here at USD.  When I signed up for Dakotathon as a dancer my sophomore year, I never thought it would affect me the way it did or that I could impact others in a short span of 24 hours. Who wouldn’t want to stay on their feet for 24 hours? I know I do for those who can’t. Seeing all the miracle children's faces light up during Dakotathon make me realize how many lives we have impacted. I am honored to be serving on the executive board for another year to plan the best Dakotathon USD has ever seen! Here’s to another fun filled year of celebrating life! FTK!

Jarrett Fowler

Entertainment Co-Chair

I am Jarrett Fowler and currently a Junior at the University of South Dakota.  My major is Medical Biology with minors in Chemistry, Psychology, and Interdisciplinary Sciences.  I am interested in sports, hanging with friends and family, and hunting.  Some organizations I am involved in at USD include Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, Sorority/Fraternity Life Ambassadors, PreMed Society, and intramural sports.  It is an honor to play a bigger role in this year’s Dakotathon as the entertainment chair on the exec team. Dakotathon is such an impactful and inspiration organization to be a part of.  I cannot wait to plan out all the fun that happens during the day for the miracle children. 


Alex Parkinson

Dancer Recruitment Co-Chair

My name is Alex Parkinson, and I am from Rapid City, South Dakota. This year, I am a senior at USD and am studying Psychology and Religion on the Pre-PA track. This is my fourth year participating in Dakotathon. I have been a dancer, morale captain, and am now the Recruitment Co-Chairman. I dance because I love the cause and raising money for Children’s’ Miracle Network. Getting to know the miracle children makes me realize how strong these kids really are. Plus, who wouldn’t love getting to participate in a 24-hour party with all of their friends and amazing miracle kids?!

Jessa Nath

Recruitment Co-Chair

I am a senior medical biology/pre-med major from Sioux Falls. I am a member of Alpha Phi and I LOVE DAKOTATHON! I dance for the kids who can't and I dance for all the little angels dancing in our hearts. I'm also so involved in Dakotathon because it is such an honest and genuine event that truly does change the lives of CMN children/families as well as the lives of the people who participate!

Ryan Palmer

Recruitment Co-Chair

I am a senior at the University of South Dakota.  I am a Elementary Education and Special Education double major.  This year I am the Recruitment Co-Chair.  Some of my other intersted are sports, hunting, fishing and hanging out with friends.

I love Dakotathon and all of Children's Miracle Network because of the lives that it impacts every day.  I got involved with Dakotathon as a freshman when I was a dancer.  Every year I look forward to the day of Dakotathon because I get to see all the faces of the lives we have effected and watch them have one day full day of fun.

Marcus E. Mahlen

Security Chair

My name is Marcus Mahlen and I am a Senior at the University of South Dakota. I'm majoring in Business Marketing with a minor in political science. Some of my interests include sports, politics, and hunting/fishing. I am also very active in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity on campus.  

The biggest reason that I am involved and passionate about Dakotathon is the kids and families that we effect. It is truly an amazing feeling to see the kids' faces while we give them a stress free, fun day. I couldn't imagine my college experience without being in Dakotathon and look forward to improving the event throughout the next year to be a part of the best Dakotathon in USD's history!

Amanda Schall

Family Relations Co-Chair

Ever since I was young I have had a love for kids and a passion for helping others. When I came to college and heard about Dakotathon, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to get involved with. When I first joined Dakotathon I had absolutely no idea the impact I could make on other people’s lives. After staying on my feet and dancing for 24 hours, my life was changed forever. During those 24 hours, I heard speeches by mothers who almost lost their sons or daughters, and kids half my age who had come face to face with death and survived. Whether each speaker had beaten cancer or had a child in their heart, they made me think about the value of life and how easily it can slip away. Knowing that I could make a difference in the life of someone who needs it, I signed up to be a morale captain. I loved being a morale captain and fell in love with every aspect of the event. Last year I was able to be the Morale Co-Chair on the executive team and this year I am serving as the Family Relations Co-Chair and hope to make this year’s Dakotathon one to remember!  I dance for smiles, for those who can’t, and I dance to make a difference! FTK!

Abbey Ulrich

Family Relations Co-Chair

I have been involved with Dakotathon since my freshman year. Three of my years at USD have been spent as a member of the executive board. I cannot imagine a better organization that is worth the time we put into it. I see the impact that we have on miracle families as well as USD students and know that it's all worthwhile.  I dance for the miracle families and children who have had to deal with more than anyone should ever have to. I dance to give them a day to celebrate what their families have been able to overcome. These families show so much compassion and dedication that it inspires me to be a part of something bigger than myself. You will never know the impact you can have on a life until you participate in something as great as Dakotathon. FTK & HAPPY DM!!!

Dakota Junkman

Alumni/High School Recruitment Co-Chair

My name is Dakota Junkman and I am a senior chemistry major from Neola, Iowa. I became involved with Dakotathon last year when I participated as a morale captain. I knew that it was going to be a great experience, but I had no idea that it was going to be one of the best experiences of my college career. Meeting the miracle children helped me to put my own life in to perspective and realize that my problems are really quite trivial. I am honored to serve as the alumni/high school recruitment co-chair this year and hope to inspire the kids as much as they have inspired me. I look forward to making this year’s Dakotathon the best one yet and giving the kids a stress-free and fun day.


Katey Ulrich

Alumni/High School Recruitment Co-Chair

Coming to USD, I knew Dakotathon was an organization I would be involved with. I participated as a dancer my freshman year and instantly fell in love with what Dakotathon does. The last two years I have served as a fundraising co-chair and then the recruitment co-chair! This year I will be the High School Recruitment and Alumni Relations Chair with Dakota. Serving on the executive board is the best experience I have had here at USD. Having the opportunity to provide a day of fun and relaxation for the miracle kids and their families is an amazing experience. Hearing the families tell their stories of how CMN has helped them and changed their lives makes all of the work worth it. This is truly a life changing organization.

I dance for the kids who can't, I dance for the smiles, and I dance for more birthdays. Happy DM & FTK!!

Amanda Hansen

Hospitality Chair

Hello! My name is Amanda Hansen and I am the Hospitality Chair for Dakotathon 2014-2015. I am from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and I am currently a senior at the University of South Dakota. I am double majoring in Medical Biology and Psychology.  I am on the USD Rock Climbing Team, a member of the Alpha Phi sorority, and on the executive board for AWOL.  This will be my third year participating in Dakotathon, once as a Dancer, once as a Morale Captain, and now I am so honored to be a part of the Dakotathon Executive team. I am so excited to see what this year has to bring! FTK!