Dance Marathon is an annual charity event organized by Appalachian and the Community Together that took place Saturday in Legends. It lasted 15 hours and consisted of dancing, face painting, food and more.
The intent of the Dance Marathon is to raise money for two local nonprofits, Western Youth Network and Parent to Parent Family Support Network. Both of these organizations provide assistance to families in the High Country of Western North Carolina.
Participants of the Dance Marathon registered online and pledged to raise a minimum of $150, or $10 per hour of dancing, according to a press release issued by the Appalachian and the Community Together office.
Dance Marathon co-chair and senior psychology major Alyson Graham said the entertainment provided included DJ Hammy, performances by App State’s Dance Team and skits from the improv group NouN.
“There’s a lot of different stuff to keep people entertained and on their feet,” Graham said.
Graham said that Appalachian and the Community Together has a huge focus on supporting local organizations, and that is one of the reasons they chose to fundraise for these particular nonprofits.
“We transitioned intoParent to Parent and Western Youth because dance marathons throughout the country are really focused on supporting kids and youth,”
Graham said. “Those are two important organizations in the community that do that really extensively.”
Parent to Parent is a grant and donors community organization that is a part of App’s College of Education Department, director of the nonprofit Kaaren Hayes said.
The program serves seven counties in the High Country, Graham said. They exist to support and help families who have children with a variety of special needs or significant health problems and families dealing with the death of a child.
“We’re really about making connections,” Hayes said. “Connecting families to each other, to resources, to information and just trying to fill that void if they’re feeling alone or don’t know where to turn to find the information they need.”
The other nonprofit that Dance Marathon fund raises for is Western Youth Network. This organization strives to provide support for youth and their families during the pivotal years of growing up. Some programs they provide are prevention programs, after school programs and service learning, according to a press release issued by the group.
Hayes said that Dance Marathon first began when one of the former directors of Western Youth Network presented the idea of beginning a Dance Marathon to the people who were in charge of ACT at the time.
“It finally took hold and was something they decided to try, and it’s been around ever since,” Hayes said.
Dance Marathon celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. Parent to Parent will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in January.
During the event’s lunch, Parent to Parent brought in families of the organization to interact with participants of the marathon. While the dancers were having their lunch, families of Parent to Parent sat and talked to everyone about their experiences with their own children and life.
“It’s important for us to try to always connect what we’re doing on that personal level,” Hayes said.
Hayes said that this is a way of making a personal connection between individuals and helping educate participants on why the nonprofit exists.
“It’s a way to connect the students personally to the event so that they really know why they’re dancing,” Hayes said.
Parent to Parent also had a station set up where poster boards stood with pictures of families and written blurbs about them, Hayes said. With each family there was an envelope taped underneath, where people could leave the family notes of encouragement.
Hayes said that one child insisted on taking her envelope before she left for the day because she was so excited about the notes inside. Hayes said that this is one example of the importance of those connections made between Dance Marathon participants and Parent to Parent members.
Teresa Williams, a member of Parent to Parent, said that she has been with the organization for a month, but it has already given her many opportunities in this area.
She said that learning about the organization “opened up a huge door” into other related nonprofits such as this one.
Dance Marathon raised $42,696.46 at this year’s event, with over 200 dancers participating.
The money will be split halfway between both nonprofits, Graham said.
“One of the things that I am consistently impressed by is the students and how much they truly care,” Hayes said.
She said that the program has continued to exist because of these individuals who come out and support the event.
“They truly do an amazing job of representing the university and fulfilling that larger mission,” Hayes said. “And I think they’re heroes in that way.”
Graham said that Dance Marathon would not have the same opportunities to reach out to students if Parent to Parent was not involved.
“Those interactions that the Appalachian students have with Parent to Parent are really meaningful and that’s what gets us to have people return year after year,” Graham said.
Story by: Laura Boaggio, Intern Reporter
Photos by: Halle Keighton, Photo Editor