Bring together 800 teens for 12 hours of music and dancing. It adds up to an event that’s expected to raise more than $100,000 for a cause important to many, including several Columbus high school seniors.
This year’s event — the 15th — will run from 6 p.m. today to 6 a.m. Sunday at Columbus East High School, raising money for Turning Point Domestic Violence Services.
Through the dance marathon, Columbus North senior Sharon Wang has become heavily involved in doing teen dating violence advocacy work.
Wang, 17, co-chairwoman of the event with Columbus East senior Caroline Smith, said she decided to become involved in this type of advocacy after a friend was raped a few years ago.
“That really just fueled my passion and desire to do it,” Wang said.
The friend was in a place where she never thought she could be attacked, Wang said, but it happened anyway.
“I saw how she struggled with it afterwards,” she said.
Wang joined Turning Point’s awareness committee and has since become a member of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She plans to continue to advocate after graduating from high school.
Wang will attend Northwestern University, which also has a dance marathon.
“It’s kind of simplistic. I want to bring some of what we are doing here to that dance.”
Wang and Smith, also 17, both became involved with the marathon as sophomores. Until then, they didn’t know dating and teen violence were widespread problems.
“One in three teens is going to be affected by teen violence,” Smith said.
She used to believe it only happened elsewhere.
“I know there are kids struggling with it,” Smith said of East classmates.
She said preparation for the dance has been extensive.
“I probably have worked 250 hours or more, but it’s worth it,” she said. “I’m excited. It’s going to be a blast.”
Whittney Loyd, Turning Point’s development director of corporate relations and an adult leader of the marathon, said the event’s primary goal is to raise awareness of dating and domestic violence for teens.
Seniors at Columbus East planned the first dance marathon in 2000, but it’s grown to include students from Columbus North and Columbus Signature Academy.
Students played a key role in organizing that first marathon and continue to do so with the help of adult mentors, Loyd said.
“We have about 65 students who come in consistently to help plan the dance, but sometimes there as many as 100,” Loyd said.
Loyd said her role is to oversee all of operations during the marathon, and she does that with the help of Columbus resident Ian Kohen, an engineer at Cummins.
“He’s a wonderful mentor for the students,” Loyd said.
Kohen became involved with the marathon about 12 years ago.
“I just wanted to help out,” he said.
Kohen said he was a member of the Rotary Club, which initially sponsored the marathon along with the Columbus East Interact Club, a channel for students to do community service work.
“It just started to grow and has kept growing,” he said. “I stayed involved because Turning Point is such a great cause, and it’s a needed process.”
Loyd said students involved in planning the event have the chance to see what it takes to run a business. That’s because some students wind up talking to corporate representatives to solicit donations, while others are assigned to line up bands and disc jockeys for the dance.
To promote awareness of dating and domestic violence issues, there will be 10-minute presentations held on the hour, each hour of the dance. Those programs will feature talks by community leaders and information sessions sometimes with video presentations, Loyd said.
A couple of bands from the Columbus area and disc jockeys — all students — will provide the music.
Wang said the 12 hours pass so quickly no one has the time to feel too tired.
“You’re there with your friends and you’re having a good time. It’s over before you know it,” she said.
Loyd said the marathon — Turning Point’s largest fundraiser of the year — generated a net profit of $102,000 a year ago. This year’s goal is to increase that net profit by $10,000.
The profits will be used to pay for Turning Point’s many programs and its emergency shelter in Columbus, Loyd said.