Let’s dance!: Annual Dance Marathon marks 20th anniversary helping Turning Point

For the past 20 years, the annual Dance Marathon has been a significant fundraiser for Columbus’ Turning Point Domestic Violence Services.

But the name of the all-night fundraiser open to all high school students in Bartholomew County could be a little misleading.

“It’s not about who dances the longest,” said Madi Schutte, a Columbus East senior and event co-organizer. “It’s really more of a big party.”

Turning Point president Lisa Shafran agrees, comparing the Dance Marathon to an after-prom event.

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This year’s Dance Marathon will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 23 at Central Middle School, with doors opening at 7 p.m., with the event continuing through the night until 6 a.m. the next morning.

In 2018, the Dance Marathon was able to raise $144,790 — up from $137,000 raised during the 2017 event, Shafran said. Turning Point services include a 24-hour crisis hotline, emergency shelter, transitional housing and legal assistance for victims.

“We would be thrilled if we can meet last year’s earnings,” she said.

While the party atmosphere is encouraged, Dance Marathon is most importantly an annual event to raise awareness about domestic and dating violence, Shafran said.

“The ‘Me Too’ movement has really helped us with delivering the message (about preventing domestic and dating violence) and stressing its importance,” she said.

Sometimes Dance Marathon participants bring a friend who hasn’t heard the prevention message, said Turning Point staff member Michaela Wischmeier. “You never know who is going to take skills that involve healthy relationships to other friends and family members. We’ve learned there is an awesome trickle effect through the community.”

In addition to encouraging teens to maintain healthy relationships, the teens organizing the event have also been working with the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress and the Healthy Communities Initiative to provide information about the opioid epidemic.

Messages regarding narcotics and substance abuse will be put on cups and napkins in the food area at the event. Those who read the messages could win prizes during pop quiz moments during the evening.

In order to avoid coming off as lecturing, the messages are usually creatively placed within interactive activities, said co-organizer Adrianna Weber of Columbus East High School.

Sprinkled within the quiz contests, games in a game show format and even fashion shows are subtle messages about preventing teen dating violence and domestic violence, Weber said.

But Greg Lewis, a long-time Columbus East teacher and member of the Columbus Human Rights Commission, says messages don’t always have to be subtle.

“One of the most powerful messages comes from survivor testimony,” Lewis said. “It’s pretty compelling.”

Lewis has been involved with the Dance Marathon since it began as a student’s senior project in 1999.

Many conversations about the prevention theme of the marathon take place while students are talking among themselves, said Turning Point prevention manager Stephen Dishinger.

The food and the fun

In addition to dancing, student organizers are also planning Laser Tag, Nine Square (a competition much like volleyball), Gaga Ball, which is a variation of the famous Dodge ball and video game competitions.

Music for dancing will be supplied by live bands and disc jockeys, and it won’t just be one type of dancing. Styles from Zumba to line dancing will be encouraged. There will also be yoga and self-defense classes offered during the event.

And as always, the Dance Marathon offers a wide variety of food appealing to the teen crowd. Since this year’s event has more than 150 high school co-organizers, organizers feel confident regarding their planned activities, organizers said.

As has happened in year’s past, two $2,000 scholarships will be given away in a random drawing, and students must be present to win, Shafran said.

Funds for these scholarships were raised during the Not-So-Newlywed Game charity fundraiser held last fall, Shafran said.

Although the Dance Marathon traditionally attracts more than 500 students, organizers have been given an extra incentive to encourage as many high school students as possible to this year’s landmark event.

An organization that Shafran identified only as a “long-time community partner” has pledged an additional $5,000 donation toward Turning Point’s domestic violence prevention programs if at least 600 young people attend the event.

Money and volunteers

Money is raised through the Dance Marathon in a variety of ways that include individual contributions, corporate donations and a $20 admission fee, Dishinger said.

Some teens hold their own fundraising events to raise money for the marathon and make presentations to potential corporate donors, Dishinger said.

“After 20 years, it’s truly remarkable that this student-led event has continued to grow,” Shafran said.

About 200 adult volunteers play an important role each year. Volunteers are still being sought to fill some late-night shifts, Dishinger said.

But grownups who prefer to help financially are reminded that all donations are tax-deductible and will directly go towards the prevention and the elimination of domestic and dating violence.

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The 20th annual Dance Marathon to benefit the Turning Point Domestic Violence Services will again be at Central Middle School,725 7th St.  

Doors will open for the event at 7 p.m. Feb. 23, with activities scheduled to run from 8 p.m. all the way through 6 a.m. Sunday. The cost for the all-night event is $20, and is open to all high school students.  

Those wishing to attend can either register, volunteer, or make a donation at the Turning Point web site at turningpointdv.org.  

High school students who didn’t register online can still show up at the door and be admitted. However, they will need to have a parent with them momentarily to sign an appropriate waiver.

Volunteers are still needed to work either a 1 to 4 a.m. shift or from 4 until 7 a.m. To volunteer, visit turningpointdv.org.   

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Because relationships exist on a spectrum, it can be hard to tell when a behavior crosses the line from healthy to unhealthy or even abusive.

Use these warning signs of abuse to see if your relationship is going in the wrong direction:​

  • ​Checking your cell phone or email without permission
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Explosive temper
  • Isolating you from family or friends
  • Making false accusations
  • Mood swings
  • Physically hurting you in any way
  • Possessiveness
  • Telling you what to do
  • Repeatedly pressuring you to have sex

Source: Turning Point Domestic Violence Services.