OVMS gets movin’

Zumbathon raises funds for local families battling serious medical conditions

Zumba instructor Paula Thistle sports a shirt that reads “What’s your superpower?” Those who dressed as superheros had a chance to win a prize at the Zumbathon. Photo: Krista Cerminaro, The Sun

By day, you’ll find students gathered in Orchard Valley Middle School’s cafeteria laughing with friends — among the rustling of paper bags and the crunching of snacks — until the clock strikes, and it’s time to return to their studies.

But by night — particularly last Tuesday evening — students, faculty, parents and other members of the community decided to pump up the party. And for a great cause.

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On Feb. 20, The COW project partnered with the middle school’s Future Acts club — a community service club — for “Zumbathon for Humanity,” an event that would both allow the community to show off their best dance moves and help raise money for local families facing serious medical conditions, according to Future Acts advisor and OVMS teacher Madeline La Voe.

Teacher and Zumba instructor Paula Thistle took the stage for most of the event, guiding participants with dance moves and even ignited some friendly competition with a dance-off midway through the event.

“I think it’s nice to bring people together for a good cause — and you’re exposing them to something new, or a healthy lifestyle to perhaps get involved with,” Thistle said. “It’s a fun time, I try to bring energy and make it a party. It’s just a nice way to do something good, rather than always going out to ‘Chic-fil-A night,’ or ‘Dairy Queen night.’”

Students, parents, faculty and members of the community gathered in the Orchard Valley Middle School cafeteria to take part in “Zumbathon for Humanity” fundraiser. Photo: Krista Cerminaro, The Sun

Thistle explained the district requires students to have 10 community service hours by a certain point in the spring, and students who earn those hours are rewarded at the end of the year — the Zumbathon was one way they were able to earn those hours.

“It’s great for the students to get involved — the majority of the people there were students. It helps them to see that they can do something fun, but also help their community at the same time,” La Voe said. “I think in Washington Township, we have a really strong tradition of service, so people are always very generous and willing to give their time.”

According to La Voe, the event raised roughly $300, with more donations trickling in.

La Voe said the proceeds, along with the money raised from the district’s 20th annual Helping Hands Super Bowl Hoagie Sale, would be divvied up and donated directly to more than 20 recipients in the community with different medical issues.

“Each year, we always seem to have a cause or benefit that we’re trying to raise money for,” Thistle explained. “In the past, it’s usually always been someone that was terminally ill or battling cancer.”

This year, Thistle said, it was an extension of the hoagie sale, to fundraise for multiple families battling rare diseases or cancer.

“Because of the timing, since we hadn’t distributed all of the funds, and since we had a long list of recipients, we decided to combine [the proceeds],” La Voe said.

La Voe also said what she enjoys most about hosting charitable events is seeing new faces attend, and the same faces who are constantly volunteering their time. Additionally, La Voe said she loves seeing how passionate the students are about helping others.

Students enjoying the “Zumbathon for Humanity” event on Feb. 20. Photo: Krista Cerminaro, The Sun

“Last night, it was so generous — there were a couple of students who, even though it was only $5, there were a few who gave $20 — because they knew it was helping their classmates,” La Voe said.

“They did a super job in my opinion, and they had a good time doing it,” Thistle said. “I heard a lot of positive feedback.”

Thistle, who lives in town, has run yearly Zumbathon events throughout the district for about eight years — and has also hosted them in other communities to benefit various clubs, teams, students’ families and more.

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