HANOVER TWP. – A creative, fun and healthy way to raise money and awareness to fight Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as ALS, is to conduct a zumbathon, according to Justus Wanyo, a 17-year-old senior at Hanover Area High School. It is also a way to honor a family member who lost the battle against the disease.
On Saturday morning, zumba enthusiasts danced, sweated, exercised to Latin music and generally had a good time in Hanover Area's gym at the three-hour zumbathon Wanyo organized as part of her senior project.
Overall, an estimated 100 people visited the event, some to move and groove, some just to offer their support or bid on an array of generous gift baskets provided by supportive local businesses, Wanyo said. Money raised will be sent to the ALS Association.
After discussing some options with her teachers about her senior project, Wanyo realized the idea of the zumbathon to fight ALS seemed a perfect opportunity. It gave her a chance to honor her great-grandmother, Ann Kosloski, who passed away due to ALS, as well to fulfill her curricular requirements.
Plus, it allowed her to sponsor an activity that she felt was the direct opposite of ALS.
Zumba gets people moving, while ALS caused muscles to shut down, she said. The zumba participants "danced for those who can't," she said.
Overall, she was pleased with how her project went.
"It was a success," Wanyo said. "It was really fun."
Getting the zumbathon event going required petitioning local business sponsors, preparing gift baskets, canvassing for donations, making posters and essentially ensuring everything ran smoothly, Wanyo said.
William Kane, assistant principal at the high school and senior project coordinator, was impressed with the initiative shown by the young girl.
"It takes a lot of work to put something like this together," Kane said. "Most people don't realize how much," he added.
Kane pointed out Wanyo garnered a lot of help from her friends and family, which was paramount to its success.
"It was a great learning experience," he said.
Joan Blaum, Wanyo's grandmother, became emotional when talking about the efforts of her granddaughter.
"I'm so proud of her and how she worked. She's been planning this since June," Blaum said. "I'm very touched."
Wanyo said she heard her whole life about how wonderful her great-grandmother was. She wanted to do something in her memory, she said.
Kane made a point to thank the staff at the school district who helped set up the gymnasium for the event. They worked around a busy schedule and rotated their shifts without question, he said.