Students fight cabin fever with Dance-A-Thon

On Friday night, Wapakoneta Elementary School hosted its first annual Dance-A-Thon to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House, as part of a year-long service learning project. 

However, this was not your typical Dance-A-Thon. Instead of dancing continuously for hours, the students were able to engage in different activities that were set up in three separate locations throughout the school. 

The school’s gymnasium served as the location for what would typically be associated with a Dance-A-Thon — lights, music, dancing. In the cafeteria, students were treated to a hip hop dance lesson where they learned various moves and routines. In the art room, a maze and an obstacle course were set up for students to go through. Throughout the evening, door prizes were handed out and refreshments were served. 

Before attending the event, students raised money through various donations and were asked to insert what they collected into an envelope which served as their ticket into the Dance-A-Thon. There was no limit to how large or small the donation could be, and approximately 170 students who signed up were able to collect at least a dollar or more. 

At press time, the total amount of money raised was not yet available. 

The Dance-A-Thon was sponsored by the Wapakoneta Dance Centre, a local dance school that offers classes on jazz, tap and hip hip, among others. 

Mary Beth Webb, para-educator at Wapakoneta Elementary School and secretary at the Dance Centre, said the partnership was meant as a bridge between the school and the Dance Centre. 

“The Dance-A-Thon came about because the Dance Centre wanted to sponsor something for kids in the community,” Webb said. “Deb Schlenker, who owns the Dance Centre, suggested that we set something up with the elementary school.” 

The Dance-A-Thon is not the only way that Wapakoneta Elementary raises money for the Ronald McDonald House. 

For the past five years, students and teachers have come up with different ways that they can donate. Students collect pop tabs, they make and sell items, and in the spring, the school conducts “Ronald’s Walk,” where students are sponsored to walk laps around a designated course. If they reach their school-wide goal, students are rewarded with movies and inflatable bouncing houses, slides and games on the last day of school. 

“We also have fun days throughout the year,” Webb said. “When students collect $1,000 they get a pajama day, when they reach $2,000 they get a fun day—it gives them something to look forward to and something to work toward.”

Before working with the Ronald McDonald House, the school’s service learning project was with the American Cancer Society. 

The Ronald McDonald House provides shelter and accommodations for families of sick children that must travel to a different city or state to get treated. 

Webb said the switch was made due to several elementary school students becoming seriously ill over the years.

“They spoke so highly of the Ronald McDonald House and the kids seem to relate to it more,” she said. “When we switched, we decided that we could broaden our giving a little further than just cancer. We wanted to affect more kids.”

Webb said that the service learning project they offer students will will help them become better people.

‘We feel that if we start them young, thinking about service learning and being compassionate, then we’ll instill that in them for the future,” she said. “Part of our mission statement is to raise compassionate and good people, as well as people that are well educated.”