Column: Carmel comes together to dance for Riley


With the memory of exhaustion waning and the blisters healing nicely, the dancers are now entering the sense of accomplishment phase. Last Saturday just fewer than 1,100 students from Carmel High School danced their way to a new fundraising record of $324,500 for Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

Teacher and faculty sponsor Sarah Wolff is quick to point out the event is not just about the money raised.

“We do not ever set a monetary goal. Instead, we like to focus on participation. We want to get as many kids involved as possible,” Wolff said. “The community we live in is very generous, and the money takes care of itself.”

Throughout the year leading up to the Feb. 22 Dance Marathon, the student government organizes fundraisers and gears them to appeal to different segments of the student and community population.

Wolff is proud of the fact that students with various interests and skill-sets get so involved in helping Riley Kids.

“The teenage years can be self-centered, and for many dancers who hear the stories about the struggles of disease, it can be a wake-up call for them,” she said.

One of the events held this winter to raise money was a Zumba Class at Shotime Dance Studio. The business donated all of the class fees, instructor time and facility to the Dance Marathon.

“The participants became aware their money was going to Riley, and it became a great success,” Wolff said.

Another student club organized an ultimate frisbee tournament while an entirely different crowd put on a video game tourney. Each month there was a major event to support the Dance Marathon.

The dance itself has grown exponentially over the past nine years. During the first year, just 300 students danced their way to a $35,000 check for Riley. That in itself is a huge accomplishment with reason to be proud.

But in just nine years, the amount has swelled to the point of becoming very serious revenue for Riley.

Wolff said, “I get to work with dedicated and driven students who have creative ideas and want to help kids. They keep coming up with new ways to fundraise and they are good at getting the community involved.”

While student driven, there is enormous support from a team of parents, faculty, staff, the Carmel business community and citizens which results in a big win for Riley Kids.