SOUTH GLENS FALLS — They screamed it: “$823,614.91.” And suddenly last year’s total fell.
At a little past 5 p.m. Saturday, about 22 hours into the South High Dance Marathon, the 50/50 raffle was up to $50,000, the Stewart’s ice cream stand had sold about 90 gallons of ice cream, the hair stylists with the Cut-a-Thon had given 110 haircuts and the student dancers in the main gym were still dancing.
“It’s exhausting, but knowing this helps the recipients keeps me going,” said Kaira Smith, a senior who had been dancing since the night before. “A family friend, Ryan Alger, is a recipient.”
Alger, 13, of South Glens Falls, has been diagnosed with medulloblastoma — a rare brain tumor — and receives daily chemotherapy and radiation therapy at Albany Medical Center.
“When I feel tired I think of Ryan and keep going. I really love Ryan and his family,” Smith said. “This is a really great event and I am proud to be a part of it. It is really sad that next year I won’t be able to be in it. But I will come back as an alumni.”
It’s hard to put into words what keeps generation after generation of dancers coming back to the event that has raised millions in it’s decades-long history. In 2016 alone, it raised more than $760,000 to help people in the community.
Dianne Bean was a dancer, her daughter was a dancer and for the past 17 years she’s been coming back to cut hair in the Cut-a-Thon.
“It’s a love of community and we want to give back,” she said, adding that unless you’ve actually experienced it, it’s hard to explain the feeling.
And Angel Spade, also an alumna and a stylist working the Cut-a-Thon, said for weeks on Facebook everyone has been counting down to the marathon. “It’s been, marathon, marathon, marathon.”
Bean added that when her daughter showed friends at college a video of everyone dancing, they still didn’t understand, so her daughter brought three friends to the marathon and then they got it, she said.
Perhaps the inner draw, the chord that ties thousands upon thousands together in this massive effort to help others is best told through the life of New York State Trooper Tim Pratt.
“Tim was all about giving, about a sense of community, he was always there to help,” said his sister Maureen Leggett on Saturday while selling T-shirts in honor of her brother who lost his life while on duty in 2016. “You couldn’t find a better human being. If you told him you needed help, he said, ‘what time and where do you need me’.”
This year’s marathon is dedicated to Pratt because he devoted so many years to volunteering for the SHMD.
Pratt’s family had 90 cases of T-shirts, three different styles of dog tags and stickers to sell. All the proceeds will go to the marathon, said Leggett. All in all, sales of that apparel totaled more than $7,000.
The T-shirts have a Superman logo on the front along with Pratt’s shield number, 1253.
Leggett shares the Superman story. “Everywhere he went he would come in a room and stand there like this,” she said demonstrating how he put his hands on his hips, puffed out his chest and said, ‘What’s going on here.’ “We all said, ‘you think you are Superman’.”
The “1253” shield was actually their father’s shield number and Pratt eventually got the number.
“My feeling is, this community did so much for us, we want to say thank you, but ‘thank you’ is not enough, have to give back,” Leggett said.
And after the marathon ends this weekend they will continue selling the Trooper Pratt T-shirts. On Saturday they will be selling them at the emergency and law enforcement hockey game at the Glens Falls Civic Center, she said.
The stories of giving, go on and on and on, in a continuous circle of gratitude and giving.
One of this year’s recipients, Brittany Smith, 26, of Schuylerville, who has chronic pancreatitis and requires a total pancreatectomy — the surgical removal of all or part of the pancreas — is still reeling from the idea that she is getting help.
Once she has her surgery, there is a long recovery and because she lives alone and cannot work, the marathon gift will help her with her mounting bills.
“I feel so grateful,” Smith said. “I cried when they called. But now I feel like a weight has been lifted and I can breathe.”
Sunday Editor Dan King contributed to this report.