Go Ask Mom

Organizer's goal: Make dance marathon major U.S. middle school charity event

Michael Meyer wants to turn the Triangle Dance Marathon into the largest middle school charity dance event in the country. And he certainly has the right location to do it. The annual event is scheduled to be held this year at the PNC Arena on Nov. 4.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall

Michael Meyer wants to turn the Triangle Dance Marathon into the largest middle school charity dance event in the country.

And he certainly has the right location to do it. The annual event is scheduled to be held this year at the PNC Arena on Nov. 4.

The marathon, started 11 years ago at a small Franklin County school in Youngsville, is a fundraiser for North Carolina Children's Hospital and Duke Children's Hospital. The event has grown over the years, raising a total of $130,000 so far. Organizers hope to make a big difference this year with the move to the PNC Arena.

The Wake Forest-Rolesville Middle School Social-Organization and Service Club, which Meyer works with, is helping to lead efforts to plan the event, along with the Rotary Foundation, PNC Arena, YMCA of the Triangle and Wake schools.

"Our goal is to start a huge youth rally of middle school kids annually that gives back to other kids - for the kids, by the kids" Meyer wrote in an email.

All Triangle area middle school students are invited to participate in the dance marathon. Students can register at the event's website and create a personal fundraising page to share with family and friends. Donation levels start at $20.

Entertainment will include a laser light and sound display, local youth bands and comedians from ComedyWorx. The event will also feature a photo booth, bungee run, basketball hoop and other games for participants to enjoy during the marathon.

Meyer tells me that the group needs 250 people to sign up by Friday to secure the floor at PNC and all the games. It is free to register, but kids can raise money by making a one page website and sending it to everyone they know on e-mail. Participants may bring money to the door that day as well.

Meyer is passionate about this event. It's a way for kids to help out the community and a way for them to have some fun, he said. He shares more information in this Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: How did this all start?
Meyer: This started days after Sept. 11, 2001 at Cedar Creek Middle School. Middle school students wanted to give back to our nation and help the people who needed it. Having just moved here from Penn State, which is home of THON, the nation's largest student run charity event in the world, we came up with the idea of a Dance Marathon. We thought it would be a one year project. We were given no funds but did have permission to do the event. Together, the students raised the funds to put on the event and we raised $6,600 in the first year. After this, the kids wanted to do it again and the rest is history! Eleven years later, the project has raised $130,000 PROFIT. Our current beneficiaries are Duke Children's Miracle Network and North Carolina Children's Hospital.
GAM: How have kids been involved in organizing it?
Meyer: Students in the SOS Club stay after school at least once per week. Each year, I have found new and creative ways to incorporate this into a service-learning project. Not only do the kids have a chance to give back to others, they learn business skills by running the event much like a small business. Students learn how to present the project to potential sponsors, media, and other interested parties. They learn the importance of dressing for success. Students learn we cannot spend what we do not have as we plan the event budget. We must pay for required things such as security and staffing before we pay for fun items such as decorations or "cool stuff" Students learn how to market the event in the school, in the region, how to write a press release, and the importance of follow up with stakeholders with thank you notes. Students use their skills to better the event. Someone may be great in making a video commercial to advertise, while others may be great at designing a sign or a dance. Students go on line to find items that go with the theme and plan activities during the event. In short, the kids plan a real life event that helps real people. By having them be so involved in the decision making, they take ownership of the project. It is something they do as opposed to something the school does for them.
GAM: What's the event like? What will you have?
Meyer: People hear Dance Marathon and think it is all dancing. That is untrue. It is way more than a dance. There are activities there for everyone. We hire an entertainment company to make this the best dance the kids have ever attended with lasers and great sound. We also have live youth bands, comedians, basketball goals, four square, etc. Patients from the hospitals will visit with their families as well so we can see who they are helping and hear their stories. We will have an anti-bullying theme as well as students will sign an anti-bullying pledge. It is way more than a dance!

It will be very safe! Raleigh police and PNC Arena will provide security. All chaperones have gone through a background check. Parents can watch the event from the comfort of the lounge looking over the floor. They will have food, comfortable chairs, and even NFL football games going on if parents wish to watch what is happening!

GAM: Is there a need for more activities like this for middle school kids? Why aren't there more?
Meyer: Absolutely! Our goal is to spread clubs and projects like this to other schools. There is enough in the curriculum to consider even making this a course. This is real life! It teaches students the importance of money budgeting, organization, how to be taken seriously as a professional, and help people at the same time. These are areas that are currently lacking in students today. I believe there needs to be a better balance in schools between things such as testing and these types of projects. Most employers do not ask me what a student scored on a specific test, but rather want to know if the student is reliable, professional, caring, and trustworthy. To better prepare kids for the future, we need more things like what we are trying to accomplish. In addition to Dance marathon, SOS organizes a Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics, a Fun Fair for wounded troops, and many individual smaller service projects such as reading to young kids, volunteering with the elderly, and a pet vaccination clinic.
GAM: How do you hope this event will grow in the future?
Meyer: We hope to create a huge youth rally at PNC Arena that many look forward to each year. It is family friendly and will bring our area together. We hope to create the largest middle school charity event in the nation that unites everyone. This is a big deal for our region and we just do not have the megaphone at our school club to reach everyone.
For details, check the event's website.


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