By Seth Kinker,

On Mar. 9, Chelsea High School raised over $7,000 for pediatric rehabilitation programs offered by C.S. Mott’s and Beaumont Children’s Hospitals by hosting an 8 hour no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon.

The CHS student council partnered with Dance Marathon at the University of Michigan (DMUM) to host the event after learning about it from Adam Schilt, a Chelsea High School teacher and the Student Council Advisor.

Dancers at Chelsea High School during the Mini-VictorThon on Mar. 9. Photo used with permission of @chelseahsstuco (via Twitter).

When Schilt was in college at the University of Kentucky, he was involved with a dance marathon called DanceBlue.

DanceBlue is a student-run organization that fundraises year-round and ends with a 24-hour no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon. The money raised is donated for pediatric oncology research and was something Schilt did all four years while at Kentucky. When he came to Michigan five years ago for work, he was aware of VictorThon, DMUM’s version of DanceBlue.

At the time, he didn’t see a way to get involved but hoped to eventually find that link. After becoming the student council advisor last year, that link became possible.

Schilt introduced the idea in July at the student council retreat where they plan their events for the upcoming year.

“He showed us the video of his senior year at DanceBlue,” said Chelsea senior Jacqueline Taylor, the Council Event Chair and Mini-VictorThon Co-Coordinator. “It was really humbling.”

Taylor and Lilian Maynard, Mini-VictorThon Co-Coordinator, met two to three times a week to make the first annual event in Chelsea a reality.

After discussing the idea and logistics with high school staff, the first order of business was getting local businesses to buy into the idea as well as looking for donations from community members.

The biggest challenge, according to Maynard and Taylor, was having people buy into something new.

“It was such a huge idea and they didn’t necessarily know it would kick off as well as it did,” said Maynard. “When everything did get together, it did work out and I know participation will increase next year because everyone had a really fun time.”

“It’s a lot to ask of kids too,” added Taylor. “Kids were saying ‘why would I give up that much time?’ and I think the ones that came noticed it was fun and that they did a good thing. I think to give up money and eight hours during time you’d be sleeping on the weekend after exams is a lot to ask out of kids.”

In addition to Taylor and Maynard, four different committees (fundraising, recruitment, family outreach, events) headed by two co-coordinators for each committee were all involved with different aspects that tied the Mini-Victor Thon together.

The eight hours weren’t pure music and dancing, games were mixed in, and different musical themes every hour and over 250 songs with the addition of taking requests made sure there were no repeat songs. Although, YMCA did get multiple requests to be played.

At the end of the Mini-VictorThon, Company C, Chelsea’s Show Choir, performed a line dance that was taught and added on to at the top of every hour.

“The original dance marathon is at Penn State, called Thon,” said Schilt. “I think they were the ones who started the tradition of the line dance where they all do the same thing and it’s a symbol for solidarity, coming together. DanceBlue did it, VictorThon does it. We are blessed with talented students, we got a committee together to mash up a song and create their own
line dance to teach the kids at the VictorThon.”

With around 130 participants and over $7,000 raised in the first year, the hope is to make this an annual event in Chelsea. The student council donates money to local programs every year, but Taylor said making one event they put on, specifically a fundraising event has been a fun way to raise the money.

Maynard added they wanted more hands-on action with who they were raising the money for and how they were doing it.

“We wanted to make it more of a community effort,” said Maynard. “Having sponsors in the local community and offering students a way to show their support.”

The plan is to present the check to DMUM next Sunday, and even with the first Mini-VictorThon just wrapping up, discussion is already in the works on how to improve for future events.


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