By Jenna Massengale ’16
For 15 hours each February, Appalachian State University students dance without stopping. Why? For Appalachian’s annual Dance Marathon, a community service event hosted by Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT).
Last year, Dance Marathon raised a record $41,045.62 for the community. ACT hopes to continue the upward trend this year.
“ACT takes pride in the fact that Appalachian’s Dance Marathon benefits two local nonprofit agencies, Western Youth Network and Parent to Parent Family Support Network. It’s all too easy to grow complacent and forget that there are people struggling just outside the perimeter of our campus,” said Brandon Williams, an ACT member who serves on the Dance Marathon leadership team.
The beneficiaries of the event, Western Youth Network (WYN) and Parent to Parent Family Support Network™-High Country (P2P), focus on giving local families and youth tools, opportunities and resources for success.
WYN supports more than 200 children and youth each year in its mentoring, after-school and prevention programs, with the goal to build confidence and character so all young people in the High Country reach their full potential. P2P provides free support, caring connections, information and hope to families who have a premature baby, a child with a disability, an emotional or behavioral challenge, a mental illness, a chronic health condition or to families who are grieving the death of a child.
Other universities host similar events, but Appalachian’s Dance Marathon is different because students see the impact made on the local community. During the event, the youth and families of WYN and P2P come and interact with Appalachian students.
“The joy on their faces is beyond words. It’s a feeling not easily replicated,” Williams said. “This will be my fourth year as a participant and my third year as part of the planning committee. What keeps me coming back is being able to see the community members that we have such an impact upon through this event.”
Service is highly valued here at Appalachian, and Dance Marathon is one of ACT’s and the university’s largest philanthropy events. ACT fuels students’ passion for making a difference by providing opportunities such as Dance Marathon for community service and service-learning. In the past 10 years, ACT has contributed more than $21.7 million of value to the community, using the $23.07 per hour national standard for volunteer time, according to the ACT office.
Participants are asked to raise $150 before the event, which represents $10 for each hour of the event, Williams said. While $150 might seem difficult to raise, ACT encourages students to register anyway.
“My hope is that the ability to accumulate large donations does not impede anyone from interacting with this event. Every dollar counts. All we ask for is your very best attempt,” Williams said.
To keep energy levels high, ACT provides entertainment throughout the event. Past entertainers include student DJs, Zumba instructors, the Hispanic Student Association (HSA) and VoiceMale, an a cappella group at Appalachian. ACT also secures food donations from local restaurants so participants will have plenty to eat throughout the event.
Participants change costumes every few hours to correspond to Dance Marathon’s theme hours. This year, the themes are space, pajama party and childhood heroes, Williams said.
Participants can sign up for the event as an individual or part of a team. All participants are placed into larger groups at the event to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to meet new people.
This year’s Dance Marathon is Saturday, Feb. 27, from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. in the Holmes Convocation Center. For more information or to sign up to participate, visit ACT’s Appsync page. Those who don’t want to raise money can participate as “morale dancers” from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. for $10.
$38,107.81 – the amount raised in 2016 for Western Youth Network and Parent to Parent Support Network
“The joy on their faces is beyond words. It’s a feeling not easily replicated.”
– student Brandon Williams, on seeing the youth and families of WYN and P2P who interact with Dance Marathon participants