Natalie Langschultz, 3, sat patiently in a chair Saturday afternoon as activity swarmed around her.
When a butterfly was completed with face paint on her cheek, she bounced off the seat and went on her way, among thousands of people in attendance at the 38th annual South High Marathon Dance.
The butterfly, said Natalie’s mother, Carrie, was in memory of Natalie’s younger sister, Abigail, who passed away Dec. 22.
Abigail was just 10 months old when she died from epidermolysis bullosa, a rare genetic connective tissue disorder that causes skin to blister and tear from minor friction or trauma.
Children with EB are known as butterfly children because their skin is as fragile as the wings of a butterfly, Carrie said.
Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Partnership, an organization that works to treat and cure EB, is one of 44 recipients of the funds raised at the dance this year.
“It’s very surreal to be on this side of this,” Carrie said. As a 1997 South High graduate, she participated in the dance as a teen.
When Carrie was a senior, the school raised $52,800. The amount has continued to rise every year, with a record of $538,015.44 raised in 2014.
This year, the event smashed last year’s record raising $621,680.06. The all-time total now stands at $4,842,138.
Carrie recalled when she was in school, the whole dance was held in the old gym.
“That gym didn’t even exist,” she said of the new gym where the dance now takes place.
The old gym hosted various fundraising booths and, for many, turned into a gathering spot.
“It’s a reunion of sorts,” said Mark Fish, former South High principal who serves on the committee for social media.
Alumni spanning decades continue to attend each year.
The entire event runs like a well-oiled machine.
Those parking private vehicles were directed by volunteers that had the system down pat.
Buses shuttled guests in and out from parking areas off campus.
Concession sales moved quickly, churning out hot food and snacks while keeping the lines moving.
Security staff was everywhere, directing the flow of foot traffic through the halls.
Periodically, the students took a rest, sitting on the gym floor while entertainment took the spotlight.
Behind the scenes, the student-comprised dance committee has been making decisions and preparing for the event since the beginning of the school year.
Ryan Hay, one of the six who chair the committee, said he was chosen by his peers in October for the role.
“Following that we run all of the meetings,” he said.
Selecting the recipients, choosing a theme, costume parades and contacting the recipients are all up to the committee.
“We have a pretty busy job,” Hay said.
Students looked a little slower in their dance moves as they approached 24 hours on the dance floor, but they were still moving and smiling.
“Look in there,” Carrie said, earlier in the day, pointing to the gymnasium. “That’s a room filled with good kids. If I could say anything to them, it’s to remember what this felt like the rest of your lives. It’s amazing and magical. They are changing lives.”
Photo Credit : Shawn LaChapelle