They did it again. The 800 students at the 37th annual South High
Marathon Dance topped the 2013 total of $489,716, this year raising a
record-setting $583,015 for 39 beneficiaries.
With this year’s record breaking total, the event has now raised more than $4.2 million.
The marathon opened to the public at 7 p.m. Friday, but the students were on the floor before then, and they kept dancing until nearly 8 p.m. Saturday. Then they sat orderly on the gym floor beneath colored lights as businesses and organizations presented checks and students were given awards for their spirit and prize bags for the amount of money raised. About 75 dancers brought in more than $1,000 and four students raised more than $10,000.
During the closing ceremony’s choreographed dance at about 10 p.m. Saturday, one recipient, Matt Sorano, who turns 21 next month and has battled Juvenile Parkinson’s Disease since he was 10 years old, was hoisted up above the dancers — his sister Jenna was one of them — in his wheelchair.
“We’re giving Matt a birds eye view,” said physical education teacher Mike Music, who choreographed the dance. “He’s been looking forward to this for weeks.
Most of them didn’t attribute their stamina to caffeine or taurine. Instead, there’s an energizing spirit that overtakes them for 28 hours.
“You pretty much bounce off each other’s energies and all feed off each other,” said Katie Washburn, a senior.
Sunday will be their day of rest, Washburn said, and the high school has Monday off.
Before the total was announced, a video featuring the recipients, telling their heart-wrenching stories, aired. Many had children or other family who danced this year. As they explained what it meant to be a recipient. For some, it removed a fog of loneliness. For others the dance is helping pay for life-saving procedures. Some recipients need bone marrow transplants while others are fighting various stages of cancer, including one woman, a single mother of three who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
JoEllen DeLuca, who is fighting breast cancer, appeared with her daughter, one of the dancers, in the video.
“Be open to the love that surrounds us, because it really is out there,” DeLuca said.
The students put months of work into the event before the 28-hour dance marathon.
A student committee of more than 100 at the high school that elects a chair committee, which this year included Washburn, Josh Deyo, Pat Fish, Nick Hutchins, Devon Sweenor and Bethany Warren.
The emotional process of choosing the recipients — 39 out of 90 applicants this year — begins with the student chairs compiling summaries of each applicant to present to the larger committee of students. Then, over two tear-filled after-school meetings, the students voted on the recipient list. The full list of people and organizations is at www.shmd.org.
“It’s hard because you do want to help everybody,” Washburn said.
Some applicants apply for needed financial support, while others are well off and need the emotional support the dance provides for the recipients.
“If we had more young adults like you, more communities like South Glens Falls, this world would be a better place. It amazes me at your age that you know what truly matters in life. You have put your individual needs aside to come together and to help others. As a result, of your values and your actions, you’ve given all of us hope,” said South High principal Carla M. Biviano.
Sure, prom and graduation are milestones, but for the seniors, the South High Marathon Dance brings a real bittersweet feeling since many of them have been involved four years.
“So far has been my favorite year, being so involved, but at the same time knowing it’s going to be over in a few hours is upsetting. It’s an experience a lot of people don’t get to experience,” Washburn said. “Over everything, this is what people look forward to most in the year. The past week, everyone in the school is friends with everyone. Everyone gets along.”
To dance, the students need to raise at least $150 each. Washburn said they have different ways of raising funds, but most kids collect going door to door or send out mass emails since there’s an online donation option.
About 400 to 500 volunteers, including alumni, businesses, emergency volunteers, come together throughout the weekend to help. Nicholas Quinn, part of the production team, said the crew volunteers about 100 hours between editing video and setting up the equipment and lighting. This year the South High Marathon Dance was broadcast live via high definition cameras, and it was all over social media with new Instagram and Twitter accounts to supplement the existing Facebook page. This year the adult committee — about 60 strong — created two new subcommittees, one for social media and another for fundraising events that organized more dining for the dance fundraisers with local businesses.
“What’s interesting about this is it brings people in at a very early age,” said Dan Albert, who is one of the advisers along with faculty Jody Sheldon and Tom Myott.
It’s been a long-standing tradition for the fifth-graders to take the dance floor for an hour, but recently the elementary schools recently started holding larger fundraising events, such as a walkathons and mini-dance marathons.
“In the last few years they’ve broadened their outreach as far as fund raisers,” Albert said. This year, the students, in grades kindergarten through eighth, raised more than $44,000.
Photo Credit : Jason McKibben