by REAGAN MOTSINGER - A reflection on the 2020 WHS Dance Marathon
Feb. 22, 2020 was a night to remember.
For those who may not know, that was the night of Westfield High School’s fourth annual Dance Marathon for Riley Children’s Hospital. It was an emotional day for all involved, but to me, it held a special place.
Dance Marathon is a cause which has grown close to my heart in the four years of my high school career. As time went on, I became more involved and active with it, eventually coming to join the executive committee for my senior year. I can honestly say that Dance Marathon was one of the highlights of my year. Watching the student body come together and experience the fruit of nine months of your team’s hard work--I was so proud of our organization on that day.
The exec team came to the school early that morning to begin setting up, then left at noon for a short break to eat, rest and get decked out in our crazy spiritwear for that night. We reconvened at 3 p.m. to finish things up and reflect on our year.
One thing that struck me was the overall sense of calm coming from the group. The last couple of weeks before the Marathon had been frenzied, making sure everything was in order and we had what we needed to put on an amazing event. But that afternoon, even as I (and I’m sure some of the others as well) stood internally bouncing with excitement, there was a blanket of peace over us. We had done everything in our capability, and what happened next was out of our hands. Our president, Sydney Clifford (12), as well as our clubs sponsors, expressed how proud they were of all the work we had done this year to get to this point.
Fast forward. Dancers started checking in, and soon, the atrium outside the gym and MPIF was filled with colorfully decorated people ready to dance for the kids.
To match the sheer volume of participants, there was no shortage of activities for them to do. Fan favorites from past years were back, like bounce houses, zumba, laser tag, and nine square, but they were not alone. This year, we added video games and a basketball tournament to the lineup, and they were a huge hit.
There was so much fun to be had, but it was balanced with serious moments to remind us why we were all there. Several Riley families presented their stories throughout the night, and each was usually followed by a call to fundraise. These families’ and children’s stories had a moving effect on the audience.
The first powerful moment of the event for me came unexpectedly. We deviated a bit from our script, inserting a moment when people could come onstage and explain why they chose to be at Dance Marathon. One of my fellow committee members came up to me in the crowd and asked if I would be willing to share. Of course, I said yes. That brief minute of talking about why I joined Dance Marathon in the first place was just one of many emotionally touching stories told on the stage that night--along with stories from Riley families, corporate sponsors and other students in the crowd.
Much of my memory is a bit hazy, probably because of the energy and anticipation which was coursing through me, but another poignant moment I won’t forget came near the night’s end. Everyone stood in a circle, holding tea lights for our candlelight reflection, and the executive team came to the middle to listen to our vice presidents, Maddie Hunter (12) and Alexis Paterson (12) and our president speak about what this year meant to them. I was absolutely floored with emotion, and soon, nearly everyone was crying. Students in the outer circle were clustering together to support one another, and I saw, yet again, a beautiful moment of student unity.
And then came the most anticipated moment of the night: the total. The crowd clustered around the stage as the committee members with the signs filed on stage to await their cue. We began the countdown, and then they raised up the signs…
We did it. We broke last year’s already unbelievable total. We cheered, we hugged, we laughed, we cried, all in celebration. We had put blood, sweat and tears into this Marathon, and we had seen incredible results. Every year, WHS's Dance Marathon builds upon its previous year's momentum, and this year was no exception. It is with great anticipation that I (and, I'm sure, you) await seeing next year's efforts.