SOUTH GLENS FALLS — Beginning in 1978, South Glens Falls High School has hosted a marathon dance to raise money for local families and charities in need. Raising $1,500 that first year, which was donated to a local EMS Squad, every year the numbers have climbed, resulting in $831,191.15 in 2018. High school students in grades nine through twelve gathers for 28 hours of dancing for a crowd that fills the entire bleachers.
Donating to a dancer is not the only way to contribute; vendors, raffles, and silent auctions also fill the school and donate their proceeds. At the end of the dance, awards are presented to the students who raised the most money, the raffle awards, the live auction, and the highly anticipated tally of the money raised.
“What struck me this year was really how many different school districts and businesses outside of South Glens Falls participate and have fundraisers for Marathon. It’s as if for this one incredible weekend, all the surrounding communities are united as one- united as Bulldogs. I was a student co-chair for the Marathon from 2009-2011 so I remember how much work goes into the dance and how dedicated the students are to make sure it is the best Marathon for our recipients,” said Kelly McFarlane, an alumnus of South Glens Falls, via email.
“I’ve been photographing SHMD since around 2001 or 2002,” said photographer Gus Carayiannis, “and it never ceases to amaze me to see and feel the passion and energy the students have for the marathon dance. They really form a unique bond with the recipients that is beautiful to see each year, and it makes you realize that they are becoming equipped to do some pretty special things when they leave high school.”
With 42 recipients in 2018, $831,191 will go a long way. According to one recipient, The Family of Austin Naylor, during the application process, applicants are asked to specify an amount and the reason it is needed. Each recipient gets their money directly deposited into an account with their name on it.
“We requested $30,000 for a wheelchair-accessible van that can be a reliable and safe vehicle for Austin to travel in and one that will last as many years as possible,” said Crystal Irwin-Naylor, Austin’s mother.
Austin Naylor was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in April 2013.
“I felt amazed and excited at the dance and what they do for people who are in need,” Naylor said.
Irwin-Naylor says her son now shows “a great interest in volunteering at the dance every year from here on out.”
“I love getting to reunite with past recipients and hearing their stories of how the dance gave them hope and strength when they needed it most. As individuals, we sometimes think that we can’t make a difference, but this dance shows that every single person makes an impact and together we change lives,” McFarlane expressed.