Dancing For the Kids who Can’t

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Dance Marathon Head  Katie Tortorice prepares for tomorrow’s Dance Marathon

For Katherine “Katie” Tortorice, Dance Marathon Head, Riley Kid and senior, the sole purpose of CHS’s Dance Marathon was not about the money earned but instead, it was about the students’ collaboration in helping Riley’s Children Hospital. Tortorice said her connection with Riley began when she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was 2 years old. She said her arthritis has deepened her bond with Carmel’s Dance Marathon and Riley’s Children Hospital and has encouraged her to continuously participate in the event every year ever since she was a freshman. In fact, this year, Tortorice will not only participate in the event, but also she is serving as the chairperson of the Dance Marathon Committee.

“Dance Marathon is the best thing that ever happened to Carmel High School in my opinion. But I’m a Riley kid, and I’ve been a Riley kid since I was two. So recently, I had this huge flare where I couldn’t walk and was in this wheelchair,” she said.

“But I think it’s really cool this year; being the (chairperson) of dance marathon, I think it’s really close to home. It was (already) before because I was a Riley kid. But after not being able to walk, and stuck in a wheelchair with all of that medicine and lying in bed not doing anything, I feel like I have this deeper passion for Riley now.”

Tortorice said her connection with dance marathon was first introduced to dance marathon her freshman year when she was asked to speak in middle school marathons.

She said, “I was introduced to the idea (of dance marathons), and I was like this is so cool. That is the hospital that I go to, and that’s such a fun way to serve and give back.”

Similarly, sponsor Sarah Wolff said she has a connection with Riley and established CHS’s Dance Marathon ten years ago in order to respect her former friend’s memory. As a result, she said she looks forward to the video at the end of the event and collaborating with students to aid children in need.

“(The video) is a tribute to my former student and friend Ashley Crouse, who we began this entire event for a decade ago after she lost her life in a car accident. It is my way to honor her legacy of dance marathon, as she lived for it, and thank her for what she left behind: Carmel Dance Marathon and thousands of students who go on to be selfless givers because of the lessons learned from it,” Wolff said via email. “I hope we can create more people like her in the world through a love of helping others sparked or fostered through the dance marathon program.”

“Dance Marathon is kids at their best. Giving up their time on a Saturday night when they could be doing something else, coming together to help other kids in need,” she said. “And the most important part about the event is the cause. The kids of Riley Hospital. That is why we are there, why we stand.”

As chairperson of CHS’s dance marathon, Tortorice and Wolff work with members of Cabinet to plan and host the event that will continue to partake in the same activities from last year, including the line dance. However, they will integrate several new changes into this year’s event because Saturday will mark the tenth anniversary of CHS’s dance marathon.

Wolff said, “We have several new things to celebrate that have not previously been in our program. A few surprises included as well.”

Despite this, Tortorice said the planning and hosting process for the event is extensive and requires dedication ranging from tasks including contacting restaurants and making new fanny packs to creating new T-shirt designs. As chairperson, she works with Wolff in hosting and supervising the event; however each member in Cabinet is assigned a specific task.

“It’s not about the money, but it’s about putting the effort in and be like, ‘I’m going to try so hard to help the kids at Riley,’” she said.

Senior Kunj Patel, who also plans to attend this year’s Dance Marathon, said he agrees. “(The event) is more than just the money. Just the whole night and the events leading up to (the event) are just great,” he said.

“It’s just a fun way to serve, and you can work your way to raise the money for dance marathon. I don’t want (students) to just ask their parents for a check because I want them to work for the money, and I want them to fund-raise, and I want them to stand on dance marathon day and say, ‘This is awesome, and this is what I want to do. I’m serving the kids at Riley, and it’s the best of both worlds,” Tortorice said.

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