Students at West Orange and Windermere high schools have been fundraising all year for Children’s Miracle Network and Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, and the culmination of their efforts takes place this weekend with two dance marathons open to the community. WOHS opens its gymnasium doors Friday, and Windermere follows suit Saturday.
The nationwide dance events are hosted by the schools’ Student Government Associations and provide students a chance to reveal and celebrate the total amount raised. Students set up personal campaigns, held in-school and community fundraisers, planned spirit nights, and sought partnerships with local businesses.
West Orange students sold bundt cakes and popcorn, and, this week, there will be lunchtime flash mobs and several teachers are getting a pie to the face. Windermere students washed vehicles and held dodge ball tournaments, and many announced they would do a particular stunt — such as eat a hot pepper or dye their hair blue — if they reached their individual fundraising goal.
One Windermere coach joined the excitement and said he will coach a game in a hotdog costume if he reaches his dollar amount.
“While it’s led by students, it’s really become a school and community involvement,” said Evan Brengel, a member of WHS’ peer counseling department.
Students at the University of Central Florida who participate in the Knight-Thon dance marathon will be at the two events for assistance and moral support. In previous years, Knights have operated the makeshift jail in the gym.
Local CMN families are planning to attend and speak to the crowd. The events include games, contests, food, dancing and talent shows. Proceeds from the entry fees, games, food and “jail” are included in the total.
“We only started our dance marathon five years ago, but Windermere High was the top first-year program in the nation for a dance marathon,” he said. “We raised $60,000, and we’ve only gone up every year except for the COVID year, when they still raised $86,000.”
In five years, WHS has raised more than $300,000 for CMN, Brengel said.
The goal this year is to raise $105,000.
“I think Windermere’s involvement stems from the passion that one student brought when they first brought this program here,” Brengel said. “One student came to the faculty and said I want to do this. (That was) the initial flame, and it ignited a spark, and it’s never really died down. The want to make a difference in the lives of these kids.”
At West Orange, SGA students Hailey Lampshire and Patrick Golden are leading the event. This is the Warriors’ eighth year of participation. Alicia Light, Student Government co-sponsor, said WOHS was one of the first schools in the area to host a dance marathon.
“They’ve latched on to these kids and helping the community,” she said. “They see the benefit. … It’s been a really important drive for them.”
Students missed out on the dance-a-thon because of COVID-19, but they still held donor drives and raised money. This year’s goal is $30,000.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.