ROXBURY, NJ - More than 400 Roxbury High School students, some alumni and friends from surrounding districts spent last Friday night and early Saturday morning dancing the night away to raise money and support for the fight against pediatric cancer in the Roxbury High School Gymnasium.

Over the past three years, the RHS Mini-THON team raised $39,900 total. This year, the organizers were hoping to raise 20,000 in one night. With hard work, they ended up crushing that goal by raising $50,876.

“We are still in disbelief about how successful our fundraiser was," said Mike Gottfried, Key Club co-advisor and co-overseer of the Mini-THON. "Our students stepped up in a way we have never seen before. We have to give a lot of credit to having our assembly three weeks in advance. That really inspired many students and motivated them to actually fundraise, rather than just pay $30 at the door. We are exhilarated and overcome with gratitude following this tremendous success.”

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When asked what goal they would shoot for next year, Gottfried said, “It’s one we’ve been asking constantly and something we’ve discussed a lot, but no official goal has been set yet. How do you top a year where you triple the previous years’ success?”

Roxbury High School Principal Jeff Swanson was also shocked by the final number and shared, “The Mini-THON committee set an ambitious goal of raising $20,000 this year. I was blown away by the final reveal at the end of the program, over $50,000. How can they ever top that? I bet they do next year. This type of thing happens at RHS because we have a school full of great kids, with great teachers to support and encourage them.”

The Mini-THON event officially kicked off a little before 7 p.m. Friday by Sarah Waldron, junior and Mini-THON president. She shared with her classmates that “cancer is the leading cause of death in the United States and tonight we are doing one step to end it.”

She went on to introduce Dan Exter, Roxbury alumni class of 2004 and cancer survivor. He briefly shared his personal story of having cancer and conquering it thanks to research and treatments provided by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

As a survivor of a rare form of cancer, he shared how important it was to raise money to support ongoing research to find a cure.

“To see all of you for this event is truly remarkable," Exter said. "If it wasn’t for the treatment and doctors ... My treatment was one in clinical trials that had funds raised at events like this and now it is the go-to procedure for treating cancers like mine. You should all know that what you’re doing is making a massive impact in the fight against cancer.”

Exter has since dedicated time to raising money for cancer research through his non-profit, Layups4Life 3-on-3 basketball tournaments. The event, on April 29th at Roxbury High School, raises money for cancer research and clinical trials.

Also during the kickoff, senior Billy Lanno spoke and shared his story about having cancer as a child.

Knowing it was to be a long night, this year’s Mini-THON offered much for its participants. There were DJs and bands performing all night including two student bands, Velvet Rose and Strange Eclipse, with a Battery Electric as a special guest band.

Swanson also put in a special performance and sang “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen, accompanied by Dan Salyerds, district vocal music teacher, and Strange Eclipse.

Dan Coiro, the other Key Club advisor and overseer of Mini-THON got up there with Gottfried and sang the chorus to “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young with Salyerds and Strange Eclipse.

The event featured a line dance that took place every hour, led by the dance committee.

“We had an awesome dance performance by a student group, Ammo. They did a tae-kwon-do based dance routine,” shared Gottfried.

“At 11 p.m. all of the students who could not stay overnight due to sports, work, etc. had to leave and everyone else got locked in for the long haul,” explained Gottfried.

Events occurred throughout the night, into the wee hours of the morning. There was a rave hour around 2:30 a.m., Junior Alexa Scano performed with her piano, there was a sports-based tournament from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., and Zumba from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Finally, at 7:30 a.m., students were able to sit down and the total amount raised was revealed with cheers from all. Following the reveal, prizes for raffles were called including two blue-ray DVD players and DVDs.

Students were fed throughout the night with pizza, pasta and mac n’ cheese. Olive Garden sponsored the event and gave food for 100, which Mini-THON turned around and gave to the top 100 fundraisers.

Gottfried went on to say, “There was also a ton of ice cream, cookies, brownies, chips, etc. for dessert and we had bagels, donuts, eggs, French toast, fruit etc. for breakfast.”

The Mini-THON committee thanked Gusto 46, ShopRite, Joe’s Pizza, Olive Garden, Push Beverages, High Grade Beverages, Dan Exter (Layups4Life), Cliff’s Ice Cream, Roxbury Bagels, Bagels on the Hill, Black River Barn Restaurant, Country Club Ice Cream, and many of the local businesses for contributing and donating to make this event so successful.

“We would also like to thank the administration, staff, students, and community. Without their support, none of this would have been possible. It is great to live and work in a district as great and philanthropic as this one,” commented Gottfried.

Swanson seems optimistic next year will be even better.

“I believe that Mini-THON has grown to be a part of our school community’s culture, something that we do because it is something that should be done," he said. "The enthusiasm of the students involved is infectious. I’m sure we will have even more dancers and participants next year.”

Planning technically started this past Monday. The team will begin brainstorming ideas, reflecting on the successes and areas for improvement. After spring break, the committee will hold a wrap-up meeting and start thinking about electing new captains for next year.

Gottfried said, “We’ll enjoy our break and then pave the way for next year.”

The Roxbury High School Mini-THON technically falls under the Key Club. However, it operates as its own group within the club with student captains and members.

A small group of students will deliver a check of the funds raised to Hershey Children’s Hospital in Pennsylvania. These donations will be used to cover medical bills for families as well as cancer research.

Visit the Roxbury High School Gaelvision Facebook page to see more pictures from this year’s Mini-THON along with a chance to view the livestreamed video from the Mini-THON night.