Annual Thomas Jefferson dance event to raise funds for student with rare cancer
This year, when Thomas Jefferson High School students take the stage to dance the jive, Charleston and two-step, they’ll be doing it for something bigger.
They’ll be supporting classmate Rachel McGough, a senior who recently was diagnosed was Ewing’s Sarcoma.
The school’s annual “Dancing with the Athletes” event has been transformed to “Dancing for a Cause” this year, in an effort to raise funds and rally around McGough.
“Dancing for a Cause” will be held 7 p.m. April 26 in the Thomas Jefferson High School auditorium.
“We just want to show unity,” said organizer Alanna Lynch, 17, a TJ senior. “It’s about giving this money back to something that quite frankly is bigger than all of us. I think it’s very important. It hits home for a lot of people in this school.”
Lynch describes McGough as a “happy individual” who has “always been there for her friends.”
Now it’s their turn to be there for her.
“She’s always been a helping hand,” Lynch said. “She’s always been a ray of sunshine.”
McGough, 17, said in a joint statement with her mother, Heather, that they “appreciate all of the support we’re receiving from the TJ community. While no one picks to go through something as devastating as cancer, it’s a beautiful thing to see everyone come together when you find yourself in a tough situation.”
“Dancing with the Athletes” has been a staple at TJ for many years. The event paired an athlete and a dancer at the school to perform popular dance genres in a competition style program that raised money for the Four Diamonds fund, a program dedicated to fighting childhood cancer.
This year, the event wasn’t going to happen, as there were too many other activities going on, Lynch said. So, she took it upon herself to organize the event, with the approval of school leaders.
“Dancing with the Athletes” always brought students of all walks together for a fun time, she said. She didn’t want that to stop.
Roughly three weeks ago, as she was organizing the event, students learned McGough had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of cancerous tumor that grows in bones or soft tissue. Lynch wanted to help her friend.
“If we’re going to donate the money, let’s donate the money to somebody right here who really needs it,” she said. “I know that none of us can really comprehend or fully understand what she’s going through, but I hope that with us coming together and us trying to to do this little event, it can have a bigger impact on what she’s going through.”
Lynch reached out to teacher Lauren Kaszonyi and sought the help of the school’s introduction to public relations class. The school’s Interact Club also is helping.
Students are creating T-shirts and Lynch designed a bracelet with the #strongerthansarcoma hashtag that will be sold at the door. All students who are dancing will incorporate yellow into their costumes, the color used to raise awareness for the disease.
Kaszonyi said students are stepping up right and left because they want to help.
“This is so important,” she said. “It’s driving them to volunteer.”