St. Thomas More School dances win National Philanthropy Day Award


Staff writer


Lee Ann Womack sang “I Hope You Dance” in the beautiful song of the same name. At St. Thomas More School, Allentown, students are dancing for hope, having raised more than $13,000 for charity in the past three years.

Gina Loiacono, eighth-grade teacher who runs the junior high school dances, said the school had its third annual Junior High Fundraising Dance March 24 to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley. The “Luau for Life” raised more than $9,000, easily surpassing a goal of $5,000.

In 2016 the “Rave to Save” for Good Shepherd Rehabilitation MS Wellness Program in memory of Dr. Brett Weber netted $4,578.34, besting a goal of $3,000. Dr. Weber was the son of Dr. Carl Weber, St. Thomas More Middle School principal, and Anita Weber.

“Get Up and Dance” for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley netted $2,700, exceeding the $1,000 goal.

The school won the Association of Fundraising Professionals Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter National Philanthropy Day Special Project of the Year Award Nov. 9, 2016 at an awards breakfast at DeSales University, Center Valley celebrating National Philanthropy Day after a community online voting effort.

“The St. Thomas More junior high charity dance was nominated by Good Shepherd Rehabilitation MS Wellness Program, our 2016 beneficiary,” Loiacono said.

So how did this all begin?

“The 2015 eighth-grade students wanted a winter dance in addition to their already existing Halloween and Valentine’s Day dances,” Loiacono said. “Together, we decided that an additional dance would be a charitable effort for a local organization.”

Loiacono said more than 130 junior high seventh and eighth-graders, along with faculty chaperones, attended the March 24 dance from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

“The ‘Luau for Life’ endeavor involved the entire St. Thomas More school community – more than 600 students in grades kindergarten through eight – through three dine-to-donate fundraisers at local restaurants, a homeroom coin challenge, purchase of fundraising T-shirts and a “sock-it-to-cancer” crazy sock day fundraiser,” Loiacono said.

Loiacono said the dances are similar to the Mini-THONs at Notre Dame High School, Easton and Bethlehem Catholic High School that support the Four Diamonds Fund in all-night dance marathon fashion, but still different.

“Ours is a typical junior high dance with opportunities to purchase raffle tickets in support of the charity and a chance to win prizes.”