Didn’t you just cringe when you heard adults throw that phrase around when you were younger? As you read the headline, I bet you imagined the sneer and the derision in their voice as your eyes passed over the words. But I am here to tell you a completely different story, one of deep pride and overwhelming good emotion as I whisper those words in awe…
This past weekend I attended the South High Marathon Dance, held at the South Glens Falls High School in South Glens Falls, NY. This was an entirely new experience this year, instead of being only a dancer’s parent (of which this year I had 2 dancers ~ a freshman and a senior), we had also nominated our neighbor as a recipient. And out of many applicants, he had been chosen as one of the 40 recipients for the dance’s 40th Anniversary.
There are so many things that make this event unique. The dance is a student run event, with faculty advisers, and has been for the full 40 years. And true to its roots, the student body elects chair people, there were 11 this year, who then work to plan the overall theme, choose the costume parade themes, and most importantly work to choose the recipients. The dance itself had 850 high schoolers who had collected donations to meet the entrance fee, many had gone far above and beyond.
The pride that the student body, from the elementary school (who collectively raised over $36,000 to donate to the total), middle school (who raised over $33,000 to donate), and the entire community is palpable and starts building months prior to the dance. Area businesses post signs of support for the Marathon Dance in early January. Restaurants and businesses hold events where a percentage of the profit go to a donation to the dance. A golf tournament was held in September, with all proceeds going toward the dance. The support is amazing, the way it brings together a community.
And that is nothing compared to how the kids describe how the month leading up to the dance transforms the school. Once the recipients are known, this year there were 29 individuals and 11 organizations, they become family to those students (just as every past recipient that they have danced for has). Divisions between cliques soften, as there is a more important purpose at hand. Cooperation increases, instigation decreases. They have a common purpose – to create a once in a lifetime memory for these recipients, to support them, to give them hope.
Every year every gym class learns a choreographed dance to a song that matches the chosen theme. Students do this dance twice, once at opening ceremonies and again to close the dance. This year was the 40th Anniversary, the theme was Throwback… the dance was a mashup of 40 years of music, plus a song for this year. That made for a dance that was about 15 minutes long! The closing dance included extras and a special guest, so it was a bit longer. If you would like to watch it and feel the energy and love, after 26 hours of dancing (after a full day of school on Friday), of 850 dedicated kids click here!
So, how do you keep 850 kids busy for 28 hours? Well, a lot of dancing! As well as eating. My mother and I volunteer each year to help prep the Friday night meal. Local businesses donate produce and foods, and some food is catered in to ensure that the dancers do not go hungry. There is a wide variety of foods for the dancers and chaperones, security and alumni to choose from. They have games to energize the kids to keep from monotony setting in. A major overnight event is Neon Power Hour. And there are the Costume Parades, in which the kids compete for pins – a source of endless Marathon pride. And the dancers are given a 2 hour rest break to sleep or watch a movie. Here is a highlight video of this year’s dance, if you would like to see some of the activities.
This year’s dance was also dedicated to NYS Trooper Timothy Pratt, a South High graduate and former dancer himself, who tragically lost his life in an accident in October 2016. As a proud Marathon Dance Alumni, he was an integral part of the dance each year and a huge part of the community. His presence was, and will forever be, greatly missed.
To see 850 kids dancing for the 40 recipients, and this year to be sitting in the stands next to one of them, was one of the most overwhelming emotional experiences I have had since having my newborn children placed in my arms. To feel the outpouring of love and support for the recipients from, not just the students and faculty, but the entire community was so intensely beautiful. And to know that ALL of this was being continued because of the children in this community – because they are given the chance and the voice to express their love and compassion for others – made me wonder, as it has every year since my daughter first danced, WHY is this not encouraged more in our youth? Perhaps it is time for us to start focusing on the positives that our youth can do so that will bloom. Look what has happened from one teacher believing in the idea of a few kids 40 years ago. Like a butterfly can start a hurricane, those kids changed the world starting in South Glens Falls. And in 2017, these 850 dancers have started their own butterfly effect, raising $823,614.91 to change the lives of these 40 recipients, affecting their families and their friends and spreading out from there.
The dancers at the South High Marathon Dance give so much more to the recipients they choose than a dollar amount at the end of the dance. Their dedication gives them Hope. They restore Faith, faith in themselves and faith in a world that has oftentimes seemed completely sterile if not hostile because of their circumstance. They provide a connection to bring them back into the fold of a community at a time when many feel like they are battling alone. As one of the recipients said in his closing speech, he came in a stranger and felt like he was leaving with 850 new friends.
And that is what we, as adults, could learn from these darn kids!
Blessings to you all!! And may you continue to grow and learn every day 🙂