ASU Dance Marathon: raising money for local youth and families



People dancing during the group portion of Dance Marathon where they all learned a dance together. Dance Marathon was held in Holms Convication Center and it started on Saturday, February 21st at 10am and it ended the next morning at 1am.

Makaelah Walters

Appalachian State will hold its 13th annual Dance Marathon on Feb. 27 in Holmes Convocation Center. The event begins at 10 a.m. and lasts for 15 hours. Complete with costumes, theme hours, performances from local groups and more, the event is in support of two local nonprofit organizations.

The first organization, Western Youth Network, provides unique and quality programming that offers individual support to children and youth, according to their website. As expressed in WYN’s mission statement, the organization builds youth of confidence and character so that every young person in the High Country reaches their full potential.

According to Wesley Berry, director of development at the organization, 84 cents of every dollar raised through Dance Marathon goes back into program for these young people.

“That money goes to provide after school services and summer adventures,” Berry said. “We believe these programs provide a safe place, one of nurture and care thus, providing an arena where character and confidence are built. The Dance Marathon money helps fund these programs. We couldn’t do it without them.”

The second organization, Parent to Parent Family Support Network, provides information and free support to help families see the possibilities for their children. Each of these nonprofits provide essential services to children and families of Watauga County and the high country of western North Carolina, according to Parent to Parent’s website.

Last year Dance Marathon raised a record-breaking $41,065.42, as stated on the Community Together website. Participation included over 200 students, one of which was junior political science major, Sarah Aldridge. Last year, Aldridge was a dancer for the event, but in addition to dancing, this year she was on the planning committee as one of the recruitment chairs.

“I love being involved in Dance Marathon because it is so incredible to be a part of such a huge group of students working towards making a better life for kids in Watauga County,” Aldridge said.

When she had an opportunity to be a part of the planning committee, Aldridge said she knew she had to take that chance and do her part in mobilizing the student community for a great cause.

Aldridge has worked with the planning committee by talking to clubs and organizations about Dance Marathon, as well as brainstorming on advertising, fundraising and recruitment.

The committee has been meeting regularly since October to plan the event, she said.

“There is so much that goes into planning,” she said. “There’s a ton that we need to make happen for the event to run as well as possible.”

After exceeding her personal goal of raising $300, Aldridge increased her goal to $1,000.

“I know that any amount of money raised from the App community will be helpful, so I’m just thankful for however much we are able to give to the nonprofits,” Aldridge said.

In 2010, a round of budget cuts to after school programs in the state eliminated a significant amount of money from Western Youth Network’s budget and the organization struggled to find funding.

“Both organizations have taken some big budget cuts in the past few year,” Aldridge said. “This is our chance to really give back to an incredible community that has given us as students so much.”

Roberto Bell, a sophomore dance studies major, hopes that the event can raise around $50,000. Bell’s dance crew is performing for the entirety of the event.

“Our main job is to keep the crowd motivated and moving,” Bell said.

Since his crew began practicing at the beginning of the semester, they have gained five members and have been rehearsing Bell’s choreography in the main lobby of Summit Hall nearly every week. His choreography includes all styles of dance, including hip-hop and Latin.

“It’s been intense,” Bell said. “ It’s not easy dancing for 15 hours straight, but it’s so fun and a great opportunity to do something good for other people.”

Another student who understands the challenges of preparing for such a huge event is junior communications and electronic media broadcasting major Ross Joyner. This will be Joyner’s third year participating as one of the DJs for Dance Marathon.

“Preparation for events like these require a lot of energy and enthusiasm. If you aren’t reacting well to the music, the dancers won’t either,” Joyner said.

Playing a lot around town for fraternities and sororities and at some of the local bars helps him with planning out the set, Joyner said.

Joyner said dancers respond well to a variety of music styles.

“Throwback tunes from the late ’90s and early 2000s really get a lot of love,” Joyner said. “We have a lot of autonomy over the music but really enjoy taking requests from the dancers.”

Joyner first heard about Dance Marathon through Appalachian Popular Programming Society, a university funded student organization consisting of seven committees that work together to select, plan and promote a variety of popular entertainment programs and films which enhance the social and cultural life for students.

Joyner heard about Dance Marathon through APPS and wanted to help raise awareness for the two organizations.

“My favorite part is definitely getting to meet the kids and the parents that participate and getting to realize that we are helping real people and making what is sometimes a lifetime impact on them,” Joyner said.

Although it is too late to register to dance the full 15 hours, for a donation of $10 students can be morale dancers, Aldridge said. These are dancers who participate in the final three hours of the event.

“That’s when the lights go down and everyone gets a burst of new energy. It’s wonderful,” Aldridge said.

Students can keep an eye out around November and December for information regarding Dance Marathon’s 2017 event.

Story by: Makaelah Walters, A&E Reporter