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Dance till you drop? Yep, all for good cause

Students from Karen Stuart's Advanced Placement Literature class at Ardrey Kell High School are preparing for six-and-a-half hours of exhaustion, fatigue and sore feet.

Luckily, it's for a good cause.

On March 17, the students will host Dance Marathon, a student-led philanthropic event originally started by Children's Miracle Network. The marathon is held at colleges across the East Coast but never has been successfully completed by a high school.

Karen Stuart's daughter had participated in a dance marathon at Florida State University and had such a great time Stuart thought she would approach her own students.

"When I talked to them about it, they got so excited," said Stuart. "They immediately came up with ideas on how to get people involved."

Stuart said there was one problem.

Although the students had many ideas, there wasn't money to fund them.

"They wanted to give away goodie bags and prizes, but that's hard to do when you don't have any money to buy them," said Stuart.

She said she decided that to give the marathon a fighting chance, she would organize the students into 11 subcommittees to each tackle a different part of the event. Fundraising was a major issue the students needed to work on.

Dhruv Gupta, 17, is a senior and head of the Internal Fundraising committee. He said the committee is hosting several events before the marathon to raise money.

"We are having a cornhole tournament and the Panthers cheerleaders and Sir Purr are scheduled to come," said Gupta. "We are also going to promote the event during a home basketball game."

Before the planning of the event began, Stuart took the committee members to Levine Children's Hospital, where the proceeds of the marathon would go. She wanted them to understand the weight of the project.

"It was really touching to see the kids," said Emily Podmore, 16, a senior and head of the Event Management committee. "There was a prayer book that had different messages from people who had been there. ... It really fueled our fire to help them."

After the trip, the students immediately began to sign up students and faculty members to dance. They collected 62 signatures in two days.

Each dancer must raise a minimum of $50 to dance and pay a $25 entry fee. The marathon committee hopes to have 150-250 dancers.

"Our goal is to raise $10,000-$20,000 for the kids," said Rohita Darga, 17, a senior and head of the Website and Media committee. "You can also donate without being or sponsoring a dancer by going online. You can pay through PayPal on our website."

The students meet for two hours every Monday to discuss and plan the event. They have their own wiki page to discuss plans on the days they don't meet and also created a website for the event.

"Being organized is one of the ways we are able to keep it all together," said Gupta.

The students are busy with other responsibilities, such as AP classes, community service outside the marathon and other clubs.

"We have a lot of sleepless nights because we are so busy," said Podmore. "But when you think about what it's all for, a couple of hours of lost sleep doesn't seem to matter."

There will be a $5 entry fee for participants who want to come to the event but not dance.

Several other events will take place during Dance Marathon for participants who aren't dancing. There will be basketball, cornhole, jump rope, a dunk tank, karaoke and carnival games. Each event is pay to play and all proceeds will go to Levine Children's Hospital.

The students are seeking sponsors to help cover the expenses of hosting the event. So far they have one major sponsor, Lorenzo's Pizza in Ballantyne, which will provide food for dancers.

There are three levels of sponsorship: Platinum for $750 or more, Diamond for $500-$749 and Gold for $200-$499.

Stuart said she is proud of the students for putting so much effort into the event.

"They are so busy that it was hard for us to ask them to take this on as well," she said. "But they have a real drive to make this a successful event and I know they will."