As 10 Seymour High School students stood in front of the stage, Kathy Hohenstreiter handed a piece of candy to each of them.
She told them they could choose to eat the candy, but one of them would die from it.
She said 90% would be a good score on a final exam, but when it comes to the percentage of children living from a specific medical condition, 90% is not good enough.
“Ninety percent is still lives lost,” she said.
Money raised through Riley Dance Marathon events around the state in recent years has helped increase the survival rate of acute lymphoblastic leukemia from 80% to 90%. Hohenstreiter’s son, Trey, was 4 when he was diagnosed with that type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow that affects white blood cells.
Now, Trey is a senior at Seymour High School. During Saturday’s Riley Dance Marathon in the Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium, he and his parents, Kathy and Dwayne, shared how Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis impacted his life and showed a video of pictures from his cancer battle.
“Money raised here today and throughout the year, it has made a 10% difference,” Kathy said. “Now, the survival rate is 90%, but let’s get that to 100%. Let’s get to where we don’t lose these kids. Let’s get to where we can do something and keep raising money.”
In October 2018, Trey was able to donate blood for the first time. During his three-year battle, he received 13 blood transfusions.
Donating blood and helping with Riley Dance Marathon are ways he is able to give back to help others.
“Go make a difference,” Kathy told the nearly 130 Seymour High School students participating in Saturday’s event. “Donate blood. Go find a cause that’s near and dear to your heart and make that difference. … Just pass it on because that’s what we’re here to do.”
Saturday was the culmination of yearlong fundraising efforts. At the end of the six-hour event, Trey and other members of the committee raised posterboards that revealed the fundraising total: $21,669.38.
That surpassed their goal of $15,000 and was the second-highest total in the six years of the event, which has come a long way since the $4,209.84 raised in the inaugural year, 2014.
“I think that it’s a good message not just for me but for all of the other people that got to have leadership positions and even just regular opportunities. They got to see their hard work pay off,” said senior Luke Turner, president of the committee.
“There are so many different volunteer opportunities in the community, but there’s a lot of them you don’t get to see the tangible benefits, the positive outcomes, and this is one of those things that you can,” he said.
That came through Trey and others sharing their Riley stories. Others speaking throughout Saturday’s event were Nicole Wheeler; Shane and Katie Tormoehlen with children Kinley and Bryce; Mariam Fields with son Kian; and Ty Gray.
“The good outcome isn’t us being able to hold up a good number. It’s having families that get to have successful stays at Riley, children who get to become healthy because of Riley. That’s the tangible benefits that I’m talking about,” Turner said.
“We had great speakers this year,” he said. “For them to be able to share their stories and after all of the work we put in throughout the year and just tonight, to be able to see that number, it’s the most jaw-dropping moment because after you see the positive stuff, you can see what creates positive outputs for families and patients at Riley Hospital for Children.”
Kelly Reasoner, sponsor of the school’s student government and Riley Dance Marathon committee, said fundraising goes from December to November.
This past year, they sold stomping tacos at Cars and Guitars and Scoop the Loop and big cookies at school; conducted a pizza fundraiser, a 5K and penny wars; seniors paid to paint parking spots; students paid $1 to wear a hat at school one day; Seymour elementary schools raised money; and local businesses donated money, food and drinks.
“The community is always behind us,” Reasoner said. “We have a great community, just a lot of community support.”
Students also purchased tickets to attend Saturday’s event, which involved learning a group dance and having an opportunity to play dodgeball, basketball, plungerball, Gaga ball, nine square, Jenga, Twister and cornhole and participate in a lip sync competition.
For the six hours, students are not allowed to sit.
“We dance for the kids that can’t dance for themselves,” Reasoner said.
Turner said his favorite part was the group dance, which lasted about five minutes.
“Quite a few of the kids that you see here aren’t the kids that you’re going to see dancing in the streets, so that’s always pretty funny. I can tell you I’m not a good dancer,” he said, smiling.
“I think that’s really cool because once we’re in this area, we realize it’s all for the kids, even the dancing part of it,” he said. “It’s not about trying to look cool in front of people. It’s about having a fun time and recognizing that by us being here tonight, by you buying that ticket to be here tonight, you could be saving another kid’s life, so that’s really, really cool.”
This was Turner’s final Riley Dance Marathon as a student at Seymour High School, and he is confident others will keep it going. So is Reasoner.
“I wanted to cry because they worked so hard. They really have. It is a lot of work to put it all together, and they do a great job. They really do,” she said.
“Our kids are amazing. We just have a great student body,” she said. “We have awesome kids who will give and give and give, and it’s not just money, but putting this all together. I think the kids had a great time.”
At a glance
Seymour High School raised $21,669.38 through this year’s Riley Dance Marathon fundraiser.
Brownstown Central High School and Trinity Lutheran High School both will have Riley Dance Marathon events April 4, 2020. It’s Brownstown’s third time doing the fundraiser and Trinity’s second.
Last year, Brownstown’s brought in around $2,300, and Trinity’s raised $6,275.01.