It’s well known how hundreds of IU students fundraise all year long for IU Dance Marathon, which last November donated a staggering $2.6M for the kids at Riley Hospital for Children. What may be a little less familiar, however, is how much of that IUDM total comes from high school dance marathons across the state. In fact, last year high school dance marathons across the state of Indiana have raised a record $466,999.90! 

An entire IUDM committee, Marathon Relations, manages IUDM’s affiliations with the high school marathons. “Weeks up until the marathons we mentor the schools and help to plan each of their marathons. At the marathon itself we teach the line dance, bring as much DM energy and spirit as we can, recruit high schoolers to participate in DM at the collegiate level, and connect with as many students as possible. We do everything we can to make each marathon whatever that specific school wants it to be. These marathons belong to the high schools and we always want to help their students to have the best time possible, while giving them the chance to find their love in dance marathon,” Michelle Turchan, Director of Marathon Relations and IU junior, said.

Turchan graduated from Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana, which hosted their first high school dance marathon in 2006, benefitting Riley Hospital for Children. Carmel Dance Marathon was started in honor of former Student Body President Ashley Crouse, who was an Executive Committee member of IUDM when she tragically passed away in a car accident on April 12th, 2005. Carmel Dance Marathon has since grown to become the largest high school marathon in the nation, raising $324,597.54 at their most recent marathon in February 2014.

“Carmel Dance Marathon (CDM) has grown in attendance and popularity among the students in the school. It has become a year-round effort rather than an isolated event. It has become more than an event for those involved. It has become a lifestyle and a mindset of service to others,” student government advisor Sarah Wolff said. “I think that kids this age are looking for a reason or a venue to do something outside of themselves. Dance Marathon provides that for them. I think that genuinely kids ‘get it’: what it means to live for others and help those less fortunate than you, and that it can be fun and fulfilling at the same time.”

Carmel Dance Marathon wouldn’t exist or be what it is today without IU Dance Marathon and Ashley Crouse, and similarly, IUDM wouldn’t be the same without the continual support and involvement from the students at Carmel High School and other marathons around the state. “Our donations go to IUDM due to our connection with Ashley Crouse. Many CDM alumni participate in and go on to lead IUDM in the future. IUDM helps facilitate CDM and assist in any way possible, from helping serve food at the marathon to providing the line dance,” Wolff said.

“After participating in Carmel Dance Marathon for 4 years I knew I wanted to become a part of IUDM… My freshman year of high school I particularly remember talking to an IUDM student at our marathon and being in awe. Every year after that I thought it was the coolest thing in the world to see IUDM at our marathon. I loved everything about the fact that they took time on their Saturday to come to Carmel DM. I knew that without them I wouldn’t have had the chance to love dance marathon as much as I did. When the time came to go out for a committee I wanted to be a part of Marathon Relations because I wanted to give that same opportunity to someone that’s in high school now. I knew I owed it to them. Now as the Director of Marathon Relations, our high school students are a big part of ‘why I dance’. They are my inspiration. The work I put in is for them, for I know that someone put in the same work when I was a high school student and gave me the chance to find my love in dance marathon. Thinking that my committee and I can bring that DM passion to our high school students gives me the inspiration to keep going,” Turchan said.

High school marathons generally mirror IUDM’s structure, just on a smaller scale, with Riley speakers, high-energy activities, food, and a shortened version of the IU line dance. Most high school marathons span 4-9 hours in comparison to IUDM’s 36.

High school students who are interested in starting a dance marathon at their school should reach out to marathon.relations@iudm.org.

Wolff’s advice on venturing into a dance marathon: “Take a risk. It will be worth it. It will be hard work, but extremely rewarding. Start small and work gradually to bigger things long-term. It isn’t a sprint, it is a marathon.”

Written By Meredith Baranowski