main content starts here

Behind the dance: with love and devotion, student leaders plan a major fundraising initiative

February 25, 2015

2015 SHMD ChairsOne of them attended the dance before she was born. Another’s mom was a recipient. And a third says the 24-hour dance marathon that brings students face-to-face with those in their own community that need help the most, is simply a way of life.

Whatever their ties to South High Marathon Dance, the local phenomenon that has raised more than $4.2 million for local people and organizations over the past 37 years, this year’s South High Marathon Dance Student Chairs agree on a few things.

“You can talk to people about it, but they won’t understand,” said senior Devon Sweenor, who is one of the six SHMD chairpersons who were nominated and elected by their peers in October, to represent the student body. “It’s unexplainable. You have to see it for yourself.”

In addition to Devon, the other student chairpersons are: seniors Ryan Hay, Olivia Higgins, Hannah Hutter, Connor Kuebler, and junior Mackenzie Myott. They run the meetings, handle the paperwork and help with media request prior to the dance. Event planning is done with assistance from three advisers—Jody Sheldon, Tom Myott and Dan Albert.

“We all had to work for this,” said Olivia Higgins, who explained that being chosen as a chairperson is an honor, and means that the rest of the school recognizes the work you have put into the dance during your time in high school.

“Every year it amazes me how much the student chair people put into the dance,” said adviser Jody Sheldon, a SGF high school teacher. “This year is special for me because I have had every single one of them as math students. They are a truly remarkable group of individuals and have been so committed to the dance and all that goes into the planning of it. I don’t think people realize just how much work goes in to being a chairperson.”

Each year’s dance has a theme—this year’s is “Big City” and student-made decorations for the dance each year—using cardboard, paint, wire and paper Mache to create works of art.

“It’s pretty amazing to see your own high school gym be transformed,” said Hannah Hutter, who says one of her favorite parts of the dance is to watch that change happen. Not only is the space transformed into a dance floor with lights and music, there are the approximately 800 students “dancing” each year in crazy neon costumes or with funky hairdos.

The dance, which takes place in the high school’s gym, has attracted more attention and people in the past few years than ever before. The group members agree that while it’s a goal to surpass the previous year’s total, it doesn’t matter in the long run because whatever money they raise will go toward helping people. Last year the dance raised approximately $583,000 through community fundraisers, bottle drives and donations.

The group also agrees that it’s pretty amazing an entire high school can put aside its differences for a drama-free event, transcending the typical high school social drama.

“No one hates anyone,” Sweenor said. “There is no drama. Everyone knows it’s for the recipients.”

The students spoke about the deep understanding they have for their community and those who need extra support. Because the recipients are local, it gives the students insight and empathy for their peers because they might learn that someone has a debilitating disease or extenuating circumstances to cope with.

“You can see how much you’re helping someone,” said Connor Kuebler. “You don’t really understand until it’s a personal tie.”

This year’s chairs agree that they will always return to their alma mater for the dance, or at the very least donate and participate from afar—it’s become a part of their lives.

“This is one of the strings that will always connect you to home,” Higgins said.

Category: Archive