Zumba Fundraiser Raises The Roof

Zumba dancers in the gym at Sussex County Community College. Credits: By Jane Primerano
Theresa Hough and Michelle Herring were the planners of the Zumba fund raiser. Credits: By Jane Primerano

NEWTON, NJ – Zumba is the latest fitness trend because it’s “fun energetic dancing,” according to Lynette Gomilla, an instructor.

It is even fun and energetic when it is being done for a couple of hours at a time, a group of women from Sussex County proved during a Zumba-thon fundraiser.

The Zumba instructors all over New Jersey came up with an idea to organize a fundraiser to help people who live in the Jersey Shore areas, who lost their homes during Hurricane Sandy. Most of the fundraisers were scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 17, as was the Sussex County one held in the gymnasium at Sussex County Community College, just steps away from the FEMA help center for the county.

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Khadezah Mitchell was the organizer for the county, and Theresa Hough and Michelle Herring, both guidance counselors at Newton High School, as well as independent Zumba instructors, secured the room, the music and the insurance. Hough and Herring mostly teach at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Andover Township. They have been teaching Zumba for about a year and a half.

The Zumba fundraiser attracted 67 participants, about 90 percent of whom are students of Zumba in Sussex County, the instructors said. Each was asked to donate $10 at the door, but most donated more, the instructors said. In addition, they brought canned goods, clothing, baby items, and anything else they thought could be used by the displaced Shore residents, Herring said.

She said the monetary donations will be taken to the Newton Chapter of the American Red Cross, and the items to the New Brunswick Chapter “and they distribute it to the shore. Apparently they are the only chapter who takes items and not just money,” she said.

“We planned it in a week and a half,” Herring said, sounding a little amazed that they pulled it off. “We decided to do it four days after Sandy.”

Besides Mitchell, Gomilla, Herring and Hough, instructors Samantha Levally and Jane Fizell were also teaching 20 minute routines during the fundraiser. The instructors alternated teaching, giving the participants a brief rest in between. Different teachers have different techniques and do not use the same music, so it was a challenge for the participants.

Each of the instructors teaches independently, or at a gym or dance studio in the county.

Gomilla explained there are overarching themes in Zumba music and routines, but the instructors also pick their own music and do their own choreography.

“Some people are outstanding choreographers,” she said.  

Zumba differs from aerobic or Jazzercise, in that it uses Latin-inspired and international music. According to the Zumba website, it was started by an aerobics instructor in Colombia in the mid 1990's, when founder Alberto "Beto" Perez, forgot his aerobics music, and instead used Salsa and Merengue tapes in his backpack. After becoming a hit in Colombia, the trend hit Miami, Fla., in 2001. Today, the Zumba website states over 14 million people in 150 countries participate in Zumba classes weekly.

The instructors were participating in each other’s routines during the fundraiser, picking up pointers and ideas and keeping their own energy levels up. 

“We borrow from each other all the time,” Gomilla said.


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