Dance the night away: Students at Westfield High School plan fundraising party for Riley’s


Students at Westfield High School are headed for a big party, one that combines a good time with altruism.

Students will gather at WHS starting at 5 p.m. Feb. 24 for this year’s Dance Marathon.

Established in 1991 at Indiana University, Dance Marathon began to honor the late Ryan White, a Kokomo teenager who contracted HIV after receiving contaminated blood during medical treatment. Over the past three decades it has grown into a fundraiser for Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, a Children’s Miracle Network hospital.

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Students celebrate during the 2023 Westfield High School Dance Marathon. In the past eight years, the event has raised more than $600,000 for Riley Hospital for Children. (Photos courtesy of Westfield High School Dance Marathon)

Since its first event eight years ago, WHS has raised more than $600,000 to support pediatric research at the Herman B. Wells Center for Pediatric Research at Riley.

Seniors Ella Lowery, Caitlin Carr, Addison Crosby and Celeste Johnson are four members of the Dance Marathon executive board for this year’s event. The students oversee planning for multiple events all year long, such as auctions, soliciting for donations, sponsoring districtwide activities for K through 8 students, raffles and doughnut days. The activities lead to the Dance Marathon, a five-hour event that usually draws about 500 participants.

The four leaders joined Dance Marathon, organized as a school club, within their first two years at WHS. They said the group is about friendship and family, and all for a good cause.

“It’s bringing a light to all of these people who have had experiences with Riley,” Lowery said. “We have people in the high school who have siblings who are part of our Riley families, and that is one of our big things. We want to not only give to the hospital, but to feel connected to our high school and to the families.”

The students said working on Dance Marathon is a way to do something good for the community, but they aren’t looking for praise.

“It’s just a great way to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself and help make a difference in your local community and in the world,” Carr said.

Johnson echoed the sentiment.

“Seeing the Riley kids is so empowering and really keeps you motivated,” Johnson said. “This is why I’m doing it. I’m not doing it for a resume or to have a club for a college application. I’m doing it truly because I want to make a bond with these Riley families.”

The event includes more than dancing. On the agenda is a lip sync contest, basketball, pickleball, Zumba, Jazzercise and more. Students who attend can expect a night of food and fun and will hear from Riley families and how events like Dance Marathon have a big impact on their lives.

“One of the best parts about the marathon is, it’s no sitting the entire time,” Crosby said. “We say that we stand for those who can’t, and it’s symbolic but it also keeps everyone on their feet, and overall, it’s just a super fun time.”

Even better is when the final fundraising numbers are revealed at the end of the night. WHS raised $36,130 in its first year, with thousands of additional dollars added each year. In 2022, WHS earned the best high school dance marathon award.

“That moment at the marathon when they actually raise the total is the most rewarding,” Crosby said. “You’ve worked so hard all year and it’s so fun to see it all come together.”

The executive board members encourage other students to participate in fundraising efforts throughout the year. Planning for the 2025 Dance Marathon will begin this summer.

“It gives us a home in such a big school. It gives us a way to get involved,” Carr said.

To donate, visit High school students can also register for the event online.

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Dance Marathon is more than just dancing. WHS students participate in competitions during the 2023 event.

Westfield strong

The student organizers of the event said the strong annual turnout for Dance Marathon fundraising effort isn’t only because of high school participation.

For the Shamrocks of Washington Westfield schools, it’s about Westfield as a whole, where residents live in a sprawling suburban community that maintains on to its small-town feel.

“We have a really good community. Everybody is there for each other, everybody loves and supports each other,” WHS senior Addison Crosby said. “There are so many die-hard Westfield families here and I think it just brings our community together so well.”

“Westfield has all the positives of feeling more tight knit and a positive community,” senior Ella Lowery. “Everyone here is nice. It’s a nice place to be and everyone here is kind and wants you to succeed. It doesn’t feel like we’re in a small place, but we feel connected like a small place.”