Seymour High School hits milestone with Riley Dance Marathon


Will Cottrill’s first time touring Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health was an eye-opener.

Known as one of the nation’s top-ranked children’s hospitals, Riley provides care across every pediatric specialty known to medicine, and physicians also deliver complex and acute care beyond its flagship location in downtown Indianapolis, according to

Four years ago during his freshman year at Seymour High School, Cottrill joined some of his friends on the school’s Riley Dance Marathon committee, and they went up to visit the hospital and saw kids receiving various types of care and treatment.

“Firsthand, it’s not the best thing to see, but you know what you’re doing, you know exactly what you’re helping, and it is eye-opening and it is amazing,” he said.

Now a senior, Cottrill is in his fourth and final year of Riley Dance Marathon in high school, serving as president of the SHS committee.

At the end of Saturday night’s six-hour event in the Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium, he was among 11 committee members who held up signs revealing the 2021 fundraising total: $21,074.80.

Moments later, they revealed an even more exciting number: $109,552.19. That’s the amount SHS has raised in its seven years of Riley Dance Marathon.

“It’s so worth it,” Cottrill said of his involvement in the fundraiser. “A couple of years ago, I came to the realization that a town like Seymour is the perfect town. It is firsthand — you know people that go to Riley, you experience Riley and people care. You can see we raise more money than bigger towns than us because of that passion that people have and the personalities that we see in people that we know.”

This year’s fundraising total is even more impressive when you look deeper.

In 2020, the in-person event was canceled due to restrictions with the COVID-19 pandemic, but SHS still managed to raise around $4,000.

This year, the committee got a later start on fundraising and raised most of its money between September and Saturday’s event.

“Last year when we weren’t able to have it, it really did take a toll. We weren’t able to fundraise. We weren’t able to go to businesses because everyone was closed,” Cottrill said. “So this year being able to raise this $21,000 in the amount of time that we were provided is just insane.”

Kelly Reasoner, a math teacher at SHS who serves as sponsor of the Riley Dance Marathon committee, was equally impressed with the students’ efforts.

The committee sold fans and bracelets at graduation in late spring, but the next fundraiser wasn’t until Labor Day when seniors painted their own parking spot. Combined, those brought in about $3,500.

Passing canisters through the crowd at the Jackson Bowl football game generated another $780. They also sold big cookies at school, penny wars were conducted at the schools from elementary to high school, St. Ambrose Catholic School brought in money from a jeans day and SHS students did their own fundraising.

At one point, Reasoner said the committee suggested lowering the goal to $10,000 due to the late start, but she encouraged them to go for the usual goal of $15,000.

Since Riley Dance Marathon started at SHS in 2014, $88,487.40 had been raised going into this year, so she felt topping $100,000 was a possibility.

“To do what they did in a short amount of time is awesome, and we didn’t even get to do some of the things that we wanted to do,” she said. “They worked really hard.”

Reasoner also praised local businesses for donating food for Saturday’s event and also for stepping up as sponsors.

“We had some good sponsors. We have a great community. We really do,” she said. “Our community always donates and comes through. It’s amazing. For us to raise that in seven years, our kids work really hard, and the community donates.”

By “dancing for those who can’t” for hours on end, college and high school students across Indiana raise millions of dollars each year for the children at Riley, according to

The first Dance Marathon began in 1991 at Indiana University to honor AIDS patient Ryan White. Today, the program in Indiana is Riley’s fastest-growing fundraising event program with more than 60 high school and collegiate programs.

SHS conducts fundraisers throughout the year, capped off with Riley Dance Marathon in the gymnasium.

That night, they learn a dance and participate in a variety of other activities with the goal of staying on their feet and moving the whole time.

“It’s always fun. I’m not a dancer, but I know how to have fun,” Cottrill said, smiling. “I’m sure everyone else did. I’m sure that 90% of everyone here are bad dancers, but they find a way to have fun, and it’s worth it in the end.”

Fellow committee member Carly Kaiser, a junior, agreed.

“I love dancing. I might not be the best, but I feel like when we are all out here just laughing and having a good time, it just makes the whole entire environment of it very positive and awesome,” she said.

This is her third year of being involved in Riley Dance Marathon.

“You usually have a certain group of people who are constantly volunteering for the same stuff, and being able to come to Dance Marathon and see all of the student body from different groups come together for one night just shows what we stand for in Seymour and what our high school wants to fundraise for and to donate to,” Kaiser said. “When you see those numbers go up, you just feel this relief that everything that you’ve done is there.”

Next year as a senior, Kaiser plans to lead the committee and hopes to get even more students involved.

Even though his work with SHS Riley Dance Marathon is over, Cottrill said he’s fortunate because both colleges he’s interested in attending have big Dance Marathon programs.

“I will definitely be able to continue it,” he said.

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