‘Kelly Clarkson Show’ highlights success of Carmel High School’s Dance Marathon


For nearly two decades, Dance Marathon has been a staple at Carmel High School, having raised nearly $6 million since it began.

The CHS Dance Marathon garnered national attention Dec. 19, when art teacher and Dance Marathon advisor Sarah Wolff was featured on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.” She shared about the history of the event and how CHS has raised more funds through Dance Marathon than any other high school in the U.S.

Laura Palmer, a former CHS student and Dance Marathon participant, works for the show and helped arrange for the interview with Wolff.

“‘The Kelly Clarkson Show’ is airing a series before the holidays of doing good in the community and things like that,” Wolff said. “Laura was heavily involved in Dance Marathon here at CHS, and it really impacted her greatly and changed the trajectory of what she wanted to do in her life. (Appearing on the show) was definitely something that’s completely out of my comfort zone.”

Dance Marathon launched in 1991 at Indiana University in honor of Ryan White, who gained national attention when his school barred him from attending classes after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS as a child. Former CHS student body president Ashley Crouse later attended Indiana University and participated in Dance Marathon there. However, she was killed by a drunk driver while still in college.

“She was a student body president, she was a notable student and figure here at Carmel High School,” Wolff said.

At the same time, Crouse’s younger brother, Casey, was still a student at CHS.

“He asked if they would start a dance marathon at CHS in her honor, because it was so important in her life and her life’s work while she was in college and the last few years of her life,” Woff said. “Second, we did it as a way for Casey to grieve. This was his way of positively remembering her and doing something to honor her.”

So, CHS held its own Dance Marathon less than a year after Ashley Crouse died and used the event to raise money for Riley Children’s Hospital. Students enjoyed the event and wanted to make it an annual fundraiser.

“It lit a spark and they said, ‘We think we can do it bigger and better,’” Wolff said. “Of course, we as sponsors said, ‘Let’s do it, how can we grow it?’ The rest is history. It grew into a culture and identity here at CHS.”

At the end of Wolff’s segment with Clarkson, or what Wolff thought was the end of the segment, Clarkson surprised her with former students in the audience, as well as children that have been impacted by their fundraising, including Lucy Beyers, a Carmel resident and former Riley patient. The show also presented video testimonials of the impact made by Wolff and Dance Marathon, including one from Casey.

“The videos were quite emotional, and Kelly got choked up during some of them as well,” Wolff said. “She stood up and gave a standing ovation for parts, so she was very supportive and encouraging.”

There was still one more surprise: show sponsor Wing drone delivery donated $25,000 to Riley Children’s Hospital in honor of the CHS Dance Marathon program.

“It was incredibly overwhelming,” Wolff said. “It was such a whirlwind.”

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CHS art teacher Sarah Wolff with CHS grad Laura Palmer, host Kelly Clarkson, and Carmel resident Lucy Beyers and her family after the taping of a segment of ‘The Kelly Clarkson Show.’ (Photo courtesy of The Kelly Clarkson Show)