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Editorial: City's Dance Marathon keeps taking step forward

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IN some ways, last weekend’s Dance Marathon was different from the first one 13 years ago.

The venue for one. Foundation for Youth hosted the first in 2000. Central Middle School did the honors this year.

The crowd was also significantly larger. In 2000, 90 teens turned out. Last weekend, more than 600 jammed into the school.

Then there was the money raised. For a first-time event, the 2000 Marathon raised a phenomenal $22,274.

Before the first dancer hit the floor this weekend, organizers already had commitments for $115,000 and appeared well on the way to surpassing the $127,000 goal. That certainly spells success by any measure, but there are two elements that have been sustained throughout the history of this particular event:

  • The total immersion of young people in it from its inception.
  • The use of this program as an educational tool in helping teens, especially, deal with the issue of domestic violence.

It is the emphasis on these two elements that have given the event a rare continuity that has been carried over by successive groups of young people.

That involvement stems from the first marathon, a project that was proposed by Dr. Kristy Ward, a physician who at the time was a member of the board of directors for Turning Point Domestic Violence Services. The concept already had been tried elsewhere, and Ward became familiar with a similar marathon at Northwestern University that had raised $200,000 a year.

One of her most important steps in promoting the project was to work with local youths. She suggested that the Interact Club at Columbus East High School consider adopting it. It turned out that two East students — Lindsay Wilkins and Dilhara Paranavitana — used the concept as their senior project for that year.

In the years that followed, other young people have stepped into leadership roles. The event has been expanded and embraced by the community as a whole. More than 200 people volunteered to help at this year’s marathon, and upfront costs including food and prizes were taken on by sponsors.

A formula concocted 13 years ago still works.

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