FHS Riley Dance Marathon – Carpe DM!
We Stand for Those Who Can’t
Writer / Kara Reibel
Carpe DM. Technically, the Latin phrase for “seize the day” is “carpe diem,” but a clever play on words by Hannah Eli, FHS Riley Dance Marathon executive committee member, expresses more than two words could ever convey.
Riley Dance Marathon, referred to as Riley DM, is a popular fundraising event for Riley Children’s Foundation and a highlight for students at Fishers High School. HSE also supports Riley by having a dance marathon.
For FHS Executive Committee President Meera Patel, involvement with Riley DM is natural. She hails from a Riley DM family with her older brother and sister having chaired and organized committees both in high school and at IU where the dance marathon fundraiser was pioneered.
“It really all started at IU,” shares Riley DM Coordinator Katie Glesing. “The IU event in 1991 was one of the first of its kind. Thanks to IU, dance events are now a popular means of fundraising internationally.”
The Riley DM originally started as a literal 24-hour dance marathon. The coordinators quickly realized that this wasn’t as feasible as originally thought, so future events used a variety of stations. Inflatables, food, games, dance and other activities have been incorporated throughout the event. In addition to the activities, Riley families are invited to share their stories.
“Our motto is ‘Stand for those who can’t.’ So there are no chairs, except in the cafeteria and those are only for Riley families,” said FHS Executive Committee Member Alex Reibel. This year’s shirt slogan is “Too Legit To Sit.”
A specific dance is incorporated as part of the event. The dance is taught to hundreds of attendees, sharing it bit by bit over the course of the evening, then culminating with the dance performed in its entirety, followed by the reveal of the amount of money raised.
“We have 15 college dance marathons in Indiana, with six of these colleges mentoring high schools,” said Glesing. “Purdue mentors 13 high school dance marathons, including FHS, and IU mentors 21 high schools, including Hamilton Southeastern High School.”
IU and Purdue mentoring includes weekly newsletters, sharing inspirational stories, assisting with meetings and motivating the committees to do their best for the cause. Money raised from the dance marathons goes toward Riley cancer research and Child Life at Riley. There is a walkway that connects Riley to the research wing across the street, symbolizing the close relationship and commitment with the patients.
Child Life provides the emotional support for children coping with long-term or short-term hospital stays. Age-appropriate art, music and dance therapies are provided to the children for the purpose of helping them connect. Trained therapists visit the kids with private art or music sessions, and if capable, dance sessions. Thanks to sponsors and donors of the dance marathons, these services are provided to Riley kids.
FHS Assistant Principal Ryan Taylor has seen the impact of Riley. Taylor’s daughter, Annie, experienced amazing care by Dr. Smith, a pediatric cranial surgeon, last summer. And many in the community know the story of Ben Edwards, son of FHS teacher Chris Edwards. Ben, who is currently in remission from his rare and aggressive brain tumor, is an inspiration for others.
Countless students at FHS have been impacted by Riley, many only truly discovering their Riley story after getting involved with Riley DM.
FHS student Sarah Shahsavar is a twin and was born prematurely. “Having my mom share my own Riley story is so humbling. We dance so other kids can have the same opportunities I was given,” shares Shahsavar.
FHS Riley Dance Marathon is 5:30-10 p.m., Feb. 28. HSE HS Riley Dance Marathon will be March 28. Tickets are $25. To donate, visit rileykids.org. For more Riley stories make sure visit to our website, atFishers.com.