Phoenixville High School's first Mini-THON raises $7,000+

Photo courtesy of Erik Rutchauskas Phoenixville Area High School students perform a signature line dance during their Mini-THON held on March 2.

PHOENIXVILLE — Phoenixville Area High School students recently learned that the Mini-THON was more than just a dance marathon.

PAHS hosted its first Mini-THON from March 2 to March 3 raising about $7,800. Students’ goal was to raise $4,000.

The 12-hour event is modeled after Penn State’s THON which raises money for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

Karlyn Small initiated the Mini-THON at the school. Small was inspired after he attended the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Conference. A speaker gave a presentation about the event.

“It was extraordinary,” Small said. “That’s what made me think more about it. Then when (the speaker) cried, it show how important it was.”

“I thought if THON could bring strangers at Penn State together it could definitely bring a high school together,” he said.

Small brought the idea to the school and students became interested in holding a Mini-THON. A Mini-THON committee was formed which was comprised of Small, Alyse Phillips, Jamie Connors and Kyle Kobilka. Math teacher Erik Rutchauskas and administrator Nicholas Gilly oversaw the committee’s plans. Small worked on the major planning including contacting the Four Diamonds Fund, obtaining the official paperwork and finding a date when the gym wasn’t being used.

The committee was surprised with how supportive students were for the event.

“The attendance went from 35 to 60 people in one week,” Phillips said.

Connors said the Youth and Philanthropy students donated $1,000 to the Mini-THON. Each participant needed to have $50 or more in sponsorships.

Students James Jackson and Kyle Atherholt volunteered to be DJs and stayed the entire night.

Kobilka said the event started off as a regular dance from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Participants had a meal thanks to food donations from businesses. Games and other activities were available for attendees.

During the Mini-THON, the Keim family, from Exeter Township, Berks County, shared their personal experience with cancer. The oldest daughter, 7-year-old Amanda, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 2 1/2. She had to get chemo for 2 1/2 years and has been cancer free for two years.

The Mini-THON committee was glad the family shared their story.

“It was pretty emotional,” Kobilka said. “It exemplified why we were there.”

Connors said, “It changed the mood. We were all connected by this family and it made the event even more important.”

Small added, “It was not just a dance. It was about celebrating life.”

Phillips said when the committee was promoting the Mini-THON, some students didn’t really understand what it was all about. Then after it was held, word was getting around to the students who didn’t go and they wanted to sign up for the next one.

Another part of the night that united students was the line dance. During each hour, participants performed the line dance choreographed by committee members. The line dance also featured a chant written by Small about various pop culture news items such as Snooki from “Jersey Shore” having her baby and winter storm Nemo.

Connors said the line dance had some silly moves.

“Everyone was doing the line dance...the jocks, the nerds (and other stereotypes),” she said. “No one cared if they looked ridiculous.”

The committee members were exhausted after the event, but proud of what they accomplished.

After Phoenixville Area School District’s spring break, plans will be in motion for next year’s Mini-THON.

Rutchauskas said he thinks the school can raise $10,000 next time because of the students’ excitement for the event.

“We accomplished our goal this year and we look forward to capitalizing on that momentum,” he said.

Committee members would like to thank organizations, businesses, parents and other community members that made donations for the Mini-THON. They are also thankful for the chaperones that donated their time for the night.

They would also like to thank art teacher Kelin Spina. They asked her a day before the event to create a banner to place on the bleachers. She also helped with other decorations.

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