Dancing for a cause

Pennsbury High hosted its fourth annual Four Diamonds Mini-THON to help conquer childhood cancer

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

In perfect harmony: At 7 p.m., the public was invited to attend “Community Hour,” which began with a massive, choreographed dance. Standing in lines that spanned the length of the gym, students moved in sync to high-energy songs like ‘Tik Tok’ by Kesha. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

“Life may not be the party we expected, but while we’re here… dance.”

A large poster board bearing these handwritten words hung on the wall of the Pennsbury High School West gymnasium, surrounded by similar inspirational sayings. But between the flashing colored strobe lights and dense fog wafting through the air, it was nearly impossible to see.

It was 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24, and the teens gathered in the center of the gym had just kicked off “Glow Hour.” As a disc jockey blasted popular Top 40 tracks, the crowd became a blur of neon tutus, glow sticks and beach balls. Given the electrified energy of the students as they moved to the music, one would never know they had been on their feet dancing since noon.

That day marked Pennsbury’s fourth annual Mini-THON, an eight-hour dance marathon to raise money to support Four Diamonds at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Modeled after the Penn State Dance Marathon, Mini-THONs originated in 1993 to empower students to learn about event management and philanthropy by joining in the fight against pediatric cancer.

In 2017, 235 schools held Mini-THONs, raising a combined $5.5 million for Four Diamonds. Pennsbury alone raised more than $45,000 for the cause. This year, senior co-chairs Charlie Bluestein and Kate Goldinger, along with their committee of student leaders, wanted to take the event a step further and set a goal of $50,000.

Still smiling: Senior co-chairs Charlie Bluestein and Kate Goldinger were all smiles during hour six of the eighthour Pennsbury Mini-THON. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

Since September, this dedicated group has been inspiring its peers to get involved. By hosting numerous in-school fundraisers, such as smoothies every first Thursday at lunch and a “white out” football game, students were able to help the cause in easy, convenient ways while taking away a valuable lesson.

“Pennsbury Mini-THON instills compassion into everyone involved and teaches students to think about people other than themselves while coming together for an amazing cause, no matter what race, religion or friend group they belong to,” Bluestein breathlessly explained during a brief snack break.

Goldinger, donning 70s-esque blue sunglasses and glitter-covered pigtails, shared a similar sentiment.

“Pennsbury Mini-THON changes your outlook on life,” she said. “It’s empowering young people like us to help others.”

According to the co-chairs, they had their work cut out for them this year. All of the seniors who helped organize the very first marathon graduated last spring, leaving Bluestein and Goldinger to recruit and train new committee members.

“We basically started from scratch,” Goldinger said.

But she and Bluestein were up for the challenge of making Pennsbury’s 2018 Mini-THON a success. Thanks to the help of the committee, student body and faculty advisors Justine McEachern and Meaghan Cappelloni, who previously participated in the Penn State Dance Marathon, the event ran like a well-oiled machine.

At 7 p.m., the public was invited inside the gym for “Community Hour,” which began with a massive, choreographed dance led by the committee. Standing in neat lines that spanned the length of the gym, every student moved in perfect sync to high-energy songs like “Tik Tok” by Kesha and “Roar” by Katy Perry.

As Mini-THON continued into its eighth and final hour, the excitement emanating from the crowd of students was more palpable than ever, especially when the catchy “Best Song Ever” by One Direction blasted through the speakers.

Finally, after months of fundraising, weeks of planning and hundreds of calories burned, it was time for the big reveal. For the first time since noon, the students sat down on the floor as committee members formed a line across the front of the gym while carrying large posters. One by one, they lifted their posters over their heads, each bearing one number of the total amount raised.

Once all seven were held up, the room erupted in claps and cheers — Pennsbury surpassed its goal, collecting a whopping $51,275.94.

Goldinger explained to her peers the countless ways this money will help families with children battling pediatric cancer. Thanks to their efforts, 65 hospital visits for a child with leukemia, 500 hours of psychological counseling or a 27-week long research session can be covered.

For her, Bluestein and all the students present, the fatigue they would surely feel over the next several days was worth it.

Visit fourdiamonds.org for more information on Four Diamonds. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com