BOZEMAN — In February, Shodair Children’s Network announced Dakotah Hurley as the 2022 Montana Champion for the Children’s Miracle Network.
“Chess club, science olympiads, he played basketball—and then it was one year that all stopped,” said Danielle Hurley, Dakotah's mother.
It was in 2020 when Dakotah’s mental health took a turn and he was admitted into Shodair Children's Hospital.
“I didn’t feel normal, I felt like I was out of place, I felt like I couldn’t talk to people,” said Dakotah.
Dakotah says that despite a stigma around mental health, Shodair gave him the space to focus on himself.
“Things being said about Shodair, you focus on yourself, you don’t let all the outside influence you,” he said.
Dakotah became Montana Champion for the Children's Miracle Network after three years of not crowning a Champion due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was honored to take over that position,” said Dakotah.
As part of his role as Montana Champion, Dakotah makes appearances at events across the state—events like a recent MSU dance marathon to raise funds for Shodair—sharing his story in an effort to break down the stigmas that surround mental health.
Dakotah will be at more events like this advocating for mental health access across the state, a fact welcomed by student organizers of the MSU event.
“Coming from a small town in Montana, mental health was not really a priority of education,” said Lindsay Lee, MSU student.
Seeing their son’s mental health improve, Danielle and Chris share a message for other parents.
“I'm hoping that through this whole process, it'll be able to open some other parents’ eyes to help their children before it's too late,” said Dakotah's father Chris Hurley.
Now a senior in High school and heading off to Concordia next year, Dakotah's parents say seeing his progress has been great.
“One year ago today, we weren’t even sure that he would make it to graduation and now we're heading off to college,” said Danielle.
“To see that you can be a normal person—you know, ‘normal’ is like living a good life and still struggling,” added Dakotah.
MSU's dance marathon was able to raise $17,000 for Shodair.