By Heather Dolce

Special to The Sentinel

The clock struck 4 p.m. on Nov. 23 and the kickoff cowbell rang.

Young children of all ages hit the dance floor but not just to party. Their mission was to raise money to fund childhood cancer research in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan region.

The District Dance Company of Germantown, together with iDance4aCure, hosted the group of 33 young dancers, 32 girls and one boy, for a four-hour party marathon as part of a fundraising effort. The company, which provides dance classes in ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop acrobatics, contemporary and lyrical, raised about $8,900 for The Brad Kaminisky Foundation through the party.

“We all know someone who has been impacted by cancer, and in our studio alone, we have several families dealing with this diagnosis right now,” Melissa Curling, owner and director of District Dance Company, said. “I know it is near and dear to everyone’s hearts, and it is really important.”

The event was the pinnacle of a year’s worth of fundraising done by the dance company. It started in April, where one of their dancers won the Heart of Gold award from iDance4aCURE at a Turn it UP competition. Thanks to her victory, the group elected to host an event to raise money for childhood cancer research.

“They have been supporting other children in our community and just wrapping their arms around them,” Curling said about her dance group’s previous charity work. “They are going to put others first and raise money for those children who are dealing with cancer right now.”

Hosting the event was the student leaders of the studio, ages 11 to 14-years-old, known as “The Leading Ladies.” The four-hour party was open to the public with members of rival dance teams, recreational dance students and members of the community invited to take part in the event.

“People in my family have been so unfortunate to be affected by certain illnesses so I feel like I should give back to these kids who aren’t as fortunate as us to be as healthy and active and out of hospitals it just matters a lot to me,” performer Layla said.

Every time a cowbell rang, a flash mob appeared to do a choreographed dance to keep the party unexpected and party guests moving. Three other party rooms included a card-making room to send to children in the hospital, an online master dance class and a game room that featured classics like Twister.

All dancers raised money for each hour they dance, with a minimum of a $50 donation with a four-hour dance commitment.  Party guests received food, beverages and idance4acure golden ribbon cupcakes.

The top performer was 3-year-old Liam Darrow, who raised $1,300. According to Bethany Darrow, Liam’s mother, the young dancer practiced and came up with videos to post on Facebook. When asked why he participated participate in the event, Liam said, “I am helping sick kids.”

“We have talked a lot about it, and he heard people talking about it when he was here for class,” Bethany Darrow said. “And he came home and told me, ‘Mommy, I want to help sick kids.’ From then on, it has been nonstop ‘I wanna dance to help sick kids; I want to dance to get money for medicine for sick kids so they can come home and hug their nanas.’”

The marathon party ended at 8 p.m. with several tired kids but money for a good cause raised. Even at the end of the music, some wanted the fun to continue while pitching to help have another party fundraiser for next year. For Curling, she said she hopes that her dancers also continue performing more community activism going forward after this party.

“I am hoping they think about the fact that it is not always about us, and it is really important to put others first and to support the children and people in our community,” Curling said. “Sometimes, families go through (a) really hard time, so it is a great opportunity for them to think about that raise money adds some positivity (and to) use their voices. Because they have voices no matter how old they are and they can use them for positive and they can really make a difference.”

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