727 dancers sign up to aid 37 recipients
By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
“As of this morning, we have 727 students signed up” for this weekend’s 43rd annual South High Marathon Dance, faculty advisor Tom Myott said Monday morning, the first day of Spirit Week.
Enrollment at South Glens Falls High School for grades nine through 12 is 910. If 727 students dance — more are likely to sign up before Friday — it would be nearly 80% of the student body.
Last year, 716 dancers started, but only 600 finished. Organizers cited illness, fatigue and some younger dancers not realizing the commitment needed.
Jenna Farrell, one of the 11 student chairs, said, “This year the younger kids are better prepared. They know what to expect.”
Co-chair Savannah Kreppein adds, “This year, a lot more of the younger kids have gotten involved in volunteering for Marathon Dance activities. That reassures us that there is still some spirit.”
Last year, dancers raised a record $837,859. Since 1978, the South High Marathon Dance has raised $8.097-million for more than 500 beneficiaries. In the last 10 years, it has raised $5.95-million.
Here are the total number of dancers signed up per class: 173 seniors, 195 juniors, 200 sophomores and 159 freshmen.
Dancers must raise at least $150 each to participate. Last year 132 students raised more than $1,000 each.
The students select the beneficiaries, pick the theme and organize the activities over the 27-hour Marathon Dance.
They are supported by advisors Jody Sheldon, Dan Albert and Mr. Myott — all South High alums — and hundreds of volunteers.
Students have been hard at work creating elaborate decorations, including a dolphin and a pirate ship. “The younger kids are doing a lot of the decorating work, which is great,” said Mr. Myott, an art teacher at the high school. He also uses his New Media students to help design the decorations, combining curriculum with real-world Marathon Dance experience.
Choreographed, synchronized dances (with glowing finger lights) open and close the Dance. Students selected “Be Your Friend” by Vigiland as this year’s song.
Students again decided on just two costume party theme dances (there were three in 2018, but two last year), the latest change in a constantly evolving event.
Another new wrinkle is for the first time, SHMD alumni will be able to dance on Saturday, March 7, from 11 a.m. to noon. To dance, they must raise at least $55 and buy a SHMD Alumni Work shirt for $20. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And this is the first year that the Marathon Dance is a 501(c)3 tax deductible non-profit, which has brought about many changes behind the scenes. But to the public, the dance will be what it’s always been: a student-led, community focused juggernaut of kindness.
Live streamed at www.shmd.org
The Marathon Dance — at the senior high school on Merritt Road — starts Friday, March 6, at 7 p.m. It climaxes Saturday night with the grand finale when recipients address the dancers and the student chairs announce the total amount raised.
The entire dance will be live-streamed on the internet at www.shmd.org, helping to drive the increasingly popular online fund-raising. In 2019, more than $168,000 was raised on the internet.
The Marathon Dance draws huge crowds, especially to Saturday night’s closing ceremonies. Family and friends fill the bleachers, and dancers pack the floor.
Fund-raising events include a massive 50/50 raffle. Last year 18 winners were picked, each collecting $500. The Chronicle donates the thousands of raffle tickets.
There’s also the sale of everything from photographs, haircuts and hair-braiding to refreshments and marathon dance apparel, plus silent and live auctions.
Local businesses, parents and alumni donate gift certificates, hand-crafted items and gift baskets for the silent auction. Joyce Butterfield, who with her husband Whit, was a key figure in the early days of the Marathon Dance, donates red and blue knitted hats she knits every year.
Numerous fund-raising events
Leading up to the dance, dozens of fund-raising events range from the annual golf tournament at Airway Meadows to the St. Michael’s breakfast that was the Dance’s original outside fund-raising event.
Volunteers Jim Boucher and Stacey Abare-Seymour coordinate the outside events. Countless students, volunteers, alumni, parents and teachers pitch in to help.
Talk of the Town, the first restaurant to hold a SHMD benefit, held a another fund-raiser, as did Fitzgerald’s, Massie’s, Common Roots, Southy’s Pizzeria and Ice Cream, Craft on 9, Coach’s Corner, Downtown Social, Texas Roadhouse, Johnny Rockets, Pizza Jerks and the Peppermill. The South Glens Falls Eagles Club held a prime rib dinner to raise money.
Hannaford collects spare change for months, and also donates water and food. Kingpin’s Alley, Glens Falls National Bank, ARCA Ink, Pretty Hot Mess and Wicks from the Sticks offer Marathon Dance deals, with a share going to the dance.
Teachers and staff from South Glens Falls and Glens Falls played “The Battle For The Bridge” benefit basketball game that last year raised more than $6,000.
Other local school districts hold fund-raisers or make donations. Irving Tissue employees raise thousands of dollars every year, and the total is matched by their boss J.D. Irving.
Supermarkets, restaurants and food distributors donate meals, fruit, snacks and bottled water for the dancers. A snack bar sells macaroni and cheese, cupcakes, cookies and drinks. Stewart’s sells ice cream, served by employee volunteers, and donates the proceeds.
The New York State Police and Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, with both uniformed and undercover personnel, supplement a security staff led by Brian Washburn, a 2018 recipient while battling cancer.
The district’s four elementary schools, and the Oliver W. Winch Middle School, raise money through separate fund-raisers and present checks Saturday afternoon.
Every year, women at the Moreau Community Center make afghans that are coveted gifts for the top student fund-raisers.
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, Moreau Town Supervisor Todd Kusnierz (a 1980 South High graduate) and Village Mayor Harry Gutheil speak to the dancers and recipients.
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