Central’s first-ever “hybrid” Dance Marathon proves to be all-around success

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Sydney Chin, Section Editor

Photo courtesy of Daniela Botero

Over two hundred virtual faces and in-person participants waited in anticipation as the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work and fundraising was about to be revealed. With the pandemic still affecting students, teachers, and staff, this year’s Dance Marathon was nothing short of a miracle.

Dance Marathon, an event dedicated to raising funds for the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, is one of Central’s biggest yearly events. Occurring for a total of nine years, Dance Marathon has become an integral part of Palm Beach Central’s culture, even winning best in the nation for high school Dance Marathon events in 2018. 

Just last year, over 300 students, teachers, and volunteers filled the cafeteria decorated with colorful signs, banners, and posters to dance their way through the eight-hour event, and a total of $111,069.08 was raised to fund life-saving equipment and care for ill children. However, this year has brought significant challenges to the regular execution of this event

This year, the landscape has completely changed. In order to maintain the safety of all participants, an in-person and virtual event was set up to allow students to choose the option they were most comfortable with. Additionally, the event had to be cut down from eight hours to three. 

Aside from public health, fundraising has also been hindered this year. Typically, PBC’s National Honor Society hosts a myriad of fundraising events including pie tossings, car washes, dodgeball tournaments, and local community events. However, many of these initiatives involved contact between students and therefore could not be carried out this year.

“The hardest part about fundraising this year is that it all had to be done independently,” said senior and Dance Marathon External Relations Overall Skylar Finkel. “Usually we give students the opportunity to sell ‘smart snacks’ and school with Ms. Kelley and Mr. Dalman or even host other events such as trivia night. However, this year everything was done by one’s self. We were not allowed to collect any physical cash, so everything was done by the students off-campus.”

Despite this, National Honor Society advisors Mr. Dalman and Ms. Kelly, as well as student officers, have found ways to persevere and still host a successful event. 

“We set our goal at $10,000,” said Kelley. “Luckily we had a leadership team who is totally on board. I knew they had the heart for the cause. Because our student leaders had the big picture in mind, they believed in the impact we could create with every dollar raised; they were the main part of our drive to success this year.”

At 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 26, in-person students filled into the courtyard after extensive temperature checks and COVID-exposure questioning. Each student was given an N-95 mask that they were required to wear for the entire duration of the event. In addition, there was a staff to student ratio of three to one to ensure all participants were following the rules and all food was individually wrapped and packaged. 

Spots were limited to about 90 students in order to align with CDC guidelines and social distancing. Students were also separated into blue/green, red/pink, black/purple, and orange pods. 21 people were in the first three pods, and 24 people were in the orange pod, which was for leadership and morale dancers. DM participants remained in these pods throughout the event and rotated to different activities every hour.

“During Dance Marathon, I was in the blue-green pod,” said junior Catherine Lee. “On our first rotation, we visited with the miracle family over the smart boards, which afterward the morale team taught us the dance. In our second rotation, we headed over to the cafeteria area where we got to pick our food. Finally, we moved to the  rotation and I got to throw water balloons at the administration.”

The afternoon was filled with various activities like scavenger hunts, rock paper scissor tournaments, and Kahoot games. The morale dance, a choreographed dance routine intended to get everyone moving, was also an integral part of the fun.

“I liked the games and activities part of the event,” explained junior Kim Ho. “They started playing songs like cotton eye joe, cha-cha slide, and cupid shuffle. It was fun seeing everyone enjoy themselves dancing.”

When not competing in games or dancing to music, students got to hear about the miracle families – all of which attended the event virtually. Miracle families are families that have a child suffering from a life-threatening illness. Throughout the evening, students heard the stories of three different miracle families, with one example being Beckett Genuardi, who was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy at the age of two years old. Receiving treatment at Shands Children’s Hospital, Genuardi was able to receive a successful heart transplant and serves as a beacon of hope for many children like him.

At the same time the outdoor event kicked off, virtual participants filled the waiting room of the zoom meeting. Hosted by the University of Florida, the event kicked off with enthusiastic college students performing the morale dance. Similar to their in-person counterparts, virtual students got to participate in games by joining different breakout rooms of their choice. Some of the games included Pictionary, guess that song, escape rooms, and more. They lasted 20 minutes and consisted of a virtual rave where both students and miracle families danced and sang to the music.

After three hours of fun and donations, the wait was finally over. Both virtual and in-person volunteers directed their attention to the second floor of the PBC building where the total amount of money raised was held up one by one on large, white poster boards. In total, Dance Marathon was able to raise just over $37, 075, far surpassing the expectations of such a difficult year. Central even outperformed cross-town rival Wellington high school who raised $27,100. 

“I think the event went extremely well and was a great way to bring awareness to the cause and have that in-person aspect in the safest way possible,” said National Honor Society president Grace Baker.  “We were still able to have most of the events that we’ve had in previous years such as meeting the miracle children and doing moral, which was really great.”

Next year will be the 10-year anniversary of Central’s Dance Marathon, and students show no sign of slowing down. 

“A lot of the changes that you saw in this year’s Dance Marathon, including having the outdoor event in the courtyard, smart boards for interaction throughout the event, and Kahoots are things we would really like to include in the future,” said Kelley.  “We felt like that really brought different elements to the event and a lot more fun!”

This year has certainly brought unforeseen challenges to students and staff, but it has also created unforgettable memories whilst supporting the children who need it the most. Central’s students continue to preserve in all aspects of life and are already working hard for next year.