A good cause: Annual Dance Marathon at Westfield High School to benefit Riley Hospital for Children


Organizers hope to see hundreds of students come together during this weekend’s Dance Marathon, a fundraiser for Riley Hospital for Children.

The annual event will be from 5 to 10 p.m. Feb. 11 at Westfield High School in the multi-purpose instructional facility and will feature plenty of activities, sports, food and fun.

In 2022, 550 students attended the event, said Sarah Gibbs, a WHS English teacher who has served as the school’s Dance Marathon student adviser since its inception seven years ago.

Gibbs said she would like to see 600 students participate in the event, which costs $15 per individual to attend. The goal is to raise $120,000, a slight increase from last year’s event that raised more than $114,000, according to Gibbs.

Planning for Dance Marathon is a year-round process. Organizers began creating an executive team and forming committees last spring, while various fundraisers such as car washes and other events have also been held to raise money for Riley, Gibbs said. Volunteers and sponsors also play an important role in ensuring the event is successful, she added.

“It’s all hands-on deck,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs also noted the dedication and hard work of student organizers, in addition to the community, coming together for a good cause.

“It makes all the hours that we put in totally worth it,” she said.

Kristen Murray, a senior who has been involved with Dance Marathon since her freshman year, has a personal connection to Riley and said she decided to get involved with Dance Marathon after staying at the hospital while she was in fourth grade.

“I always wanted to continue this passion as I grew up going into intermediate school, and middle school and stuff like that, so once I heard about Dance Marathon at the high school, I immediately wanted to get involved because of my passion for the Riley kids,” Murray said.

Murray, who serves as president of Dance Marathon this year, said what she is most passionate about regarding the event is getting others to feel the same way.

“I think once you learn more about all that Riley does and all that’s going on with childhood cancer right now, I think it’s so important to just educate yourself and to get other people passionate about it as well,” Murray said.

Murray is joined by fellow student Dance Marathon co-organizers Anneliese Hahn, Laura Shupe and Lila James. A little more than 250 students are involved in this year’s Dance Marathon, Murray said.

Murray said attendees can expect volleyball and basketball tournaments, dance competitions, food and other activities. Murray encourages her fellow students to attend Dance Marathon, noting that many Riley families often tell Dance Marathon participants and organizers that it positively impacts them since funds help cover music therapy services, medical expenses and other needs.

“It’s an amazing event and it’s so much fun to see all that you can do just as a high schooler and the huge impact it has on others,” Murray said.

Hahn, a senior who has also been involved since her freshman year, said her role involves working with several Dance Marathon committees and decided to get involved with the event since she was a patient at Riley as a child after facing two chronic illnesses. Hahn said she particularly enjoys being able to see the event come together in order to benefit others.

“It’s just taking a step back and watching it happen is really inspiring,” Hahn said.

Hahn described Dance Marathon as “the event of the year” for high school students and offers an experience that she said many individuals will never forget.

“If you miss it, you’re missing out on high school,” Hahn said.

What to know about Westfield High School’s Dance Marathon

When: 5 to 10 p.m. Feb. 11

Where: Westfield High School, 18250 N. Union St.

Cost: $15 per student

More information: www.whsdm.org. Registration for the event and donations can be done on the site.

History: Dance Marathon is an event that was founded by students at Indiana University in 1991 to honor Ryan White’s passing. Since then, Dance Marathons have spread all over the country and last year raised $26 million. Westfield Dance Marathon started in 2016. Westfield High School raised $36,130.17 at its first marathon.

Source: Westfield High School Dance Marathon website