- February 17, 2023
WINTER GARDEN Eleven thousand dollars.
That’s the approximate margin by which West Orange High students beat their fundraising record for Warriorthon during this year’s mini dance marathon for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.
Warriorthon is only in its fourth year as a school event, but hundreds of passionate students have been the catalyst behind its growing success. This year’s dance marathon, held on Friday, March 2, raised a total of $52,070.74 — last year’s total was $41,109.61.
West Orange is one of a handful of Central Florida-area high schools that hold their own mini dance marathons, which are hosted locally under the umbrella of the University of Central Florida’s dance marathon event, Knight-Thon. All proceeds go directly to Children’s Miracle Network hospitals — locally, this includes Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
Zaineb “Z” Saied, a 2016 graduate of WOHS, participated in Warriorthon once as a student. Now a sophomore at UCF, she serves on the leadership board for Knight-Thon as the family and hospital-relations captain.
“Warriorthon raised over $41,000 last year; I think they were the second-highest fundraising high school in the state,” Saied said. “Knight-Thon is the seventh-largest dance marathon in the country, and we raised $1.25 million last year. …Arnold Palmer treats approximately 135,000 kids annually, and because it’s a nonprofit hospital they provide a lot of non-billable services…”
"Looking back at all the years (of Warriorthon) and how we’ve continued to surpass our goals and get larger and larger, I think there’s nothing that could explain how we feel about that." - Tatyana Chowbay
“Also, uncompensated care is huge…so if a child enters that hospital and needs treatment and can’t afford it, Children’ Miracle Network pays for it,” she said. “This money goes directly to this hospital that’s in our community and saves so many of our kids.”
The cause hits home for her, because her sister once had open-heart surgery at Arnold Palmer. And she's not the only one — West Orange seniors Michelle McKenna and Tatyana Chowbay headed the event this year, and each is passionate about the cause for their own reasons.
“My brother had cancer when he was four,” McKenna said. “He was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, which is a rare and really aggressive form of cancer. He fought the battle for four years but he unfortunately passed away when he was 8, so I have a really special place in my heart for this.”
Chowbay added that one of her former babysitters has a granddaughter who had brain injuries when she was born, requiring multiple surgeries. She is a big part of Chowbay’s interest in fundraising for CMN.
Warriorthon took place in the school gymnasium for five hours, and the goal is for students to stay on their feet and stand for the children who cannot. They get to enjoy games, inflatable slides and activities and perform a morale dance each hour, on the hour. Additionally, students can put each other in “jail” and set a bail amount — another fun, fundraising method.
The fundraising goal this year was $45,000, but the Warriors banded together and beat it by just more than $7,000.
“It’s honestly incredible,” Saied said. “I come here and I’m so emotional because this was me a couple years ago. I come into this school all the time and present to these students about the cause, about the organization and why it’s so important, and you can see the passion.”
Chowbay added that they get to visit the hospitals and see the things purchased with the money raised, which makes the efforts put into fundraising all the more impactful.
“…I think that honestly it doesn’t matter where the money goes, as long as it’s helping (families) and we know that we’re making a difference,” she said. “Looking back at all the years (of Warriorthon) and how we’ve continued to surpass our goals and get larger and larger, I think there’s nothing that could explain how we feel about that. It’s amazing.”