Editor’s Note-Kathleen Kern is a Physical Education Teacher at Deep Run High School. She is also the force behind bringing the Marathon Dance to Richmond. The Marathon Dance is a 27 hour dance-a-thon the students raise money for. In this interview we will learn more about Mrs. Kern and the dance and what it does for the community as well as the students. There will also be a directory of the non profits the students are dancing for this year at the end of the article. The Deep Run Community has raised more than $1.57 million in the last 9 years, let’s see what this year brings!
Tell us a little about you and your family.
I was born and raised in Upstate NY where I lived for 27 years before heading to Richmond VA. I have two older brothers Michael & Jeffery who still live up north. My younger sister Jill and her husband Jon live here in Glen Allen, VA and my wonderful parents just moved here 6 months ago. I have been married to David Kern for almost 7 years and we have two beautiful children Caleb, 5 & Abigail 3 who keep us very busy.
How did you decide to start the Marathon Dance here and what was that like for you?
It was members of the Class of 2007 that begged and pleaded for me to start a dance at Deep Run after I opened my big mouth and told them about the South High Marathon Dance that I participated in all through high school. I was going on and on about how awesome my high school was for holding this Marathon Dance every year and how lucky I was to be a part of it for 4 years. My intial response to the kids was “no way…. You guys are out of your mind…. There is no way I am taking on that type of project. The begging and pleading continued for weeks…. I finally said I would think about it. I contacted Mr. McCarthy, my art teacher from high school who started the South High dance, and told him that I was considering starting a Marathon Dance at Deep Run. He responded with: “Are you out of your mind” and I replied “Apparently”. The students of Deep Run wouldn’t let it rest and next thing I knew…. I was planning the first DRMD! The whole experience was daunting and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I looked to the people in NY who plan their dance every year for help and advise. It wasn’t until I attended the South High Marathon Dance, which I hadn’t been to in over 10 years, when I realized I was in way over my head. I guess you could say that I had an emotional nervous breakdown at their dance… I began hyperventilating and panicking knowing that our first DRMD was only 2 weeks away and I thought that there was no way I was going to be able to pull it off. That’s when complete strangers from my home town reassured me that everything was going to be okay. Before I left NY that weekend, I was told that 13 members of the SHMD crew were planning to come down to Richmond to help me run the first DRMD and they did….. and they’ve been with me ever since J
Tell us about the dance, I know the students dance for 27 hours and so much goes into making
this happen, tell us a little more.
The student committee first meets in October to prepare for the March event. They meet every Tuesday & Thursday for 1 ½ hours before school and then again for an hour during lunch. ThatWe have over 30 fundraisers that we hold throughout the year to help raise money for the 12 charities the students choose. The dance consists of four different costume themes (this year we have #FlashbackFriday, Neon Glow Stick Rave, Disney vs. Nick, & Media Madness) in which we give out prize buttons to the most creative and fun costumes, games & competitions (frozen t-shirt competition, limbo competition, dance-off), lip-synch battles, yoga to wake you up in the morning, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack breaks, a 21/2 hour sleep break, and of course the amazing finale in which is the culmination of all the hard work and effort that so many put into organizing the event.
This is the 10th year you and your husband are doing this, is it any easier? What have you
learned in this process?
Shockingly I’ve learned that it doesn’t get any easier…. I work just as hard now as I did when I first started. The biggest thing that I take away from the whole experience is that I am definitely making a difference in the lives on not only the organizations that we help, but the lives of so many students who have walked the halls of Deep Run HS
What are some of the things that the students gain and learn in sharing in this?
I have spoken with so many of my former students who have said the dance had a profound impact on their lives. Many of them have changed the major in college to non-profit because of the impact DRMD continues to have on them.
These local agencies all provide such important services, I am sure they are incredibly touched
to have been selected, it must be tough for the students to decide, tell us a little about that.
The process of choosing the charities every year teaches these kids things that they would never learn in a classroom. Life is full of decisions…. Some are easy… many are hard… They learn to work together as a group and make decisions that are very difficult to do. Every organization that applies is beyond worthy of being selected. The students become very emotionally enthralled in the process… there are arguments… kids advocate for certain organizations that are important to them for whatever reason. They learn to stand up in front of their peers and speak from the heart which is very difficult for most of us to do. Every year there are tears, there is excitement, and there is disappointment. But in the end, they all accept the decision and move forward excited to learn more about what each organization provides for the community. Once the 12 organizations are selected, we create teams (one team assigned to each non-profit) and it is their job to visit their organization and learn about the services that they provide and how they are making a difference in our community.
What has been a significant memory for you, I am sure there are many, but any that just stand out?
Well, I have to say that one memory that stands out happened at the very first dance. I was so unbelievably nervous and had a lot of anxiety about everything going smoothly that I completely forgot to eat anything through most of the dance. I felt sick to my stomach and lightheaded when I finally headed to my office to lay down. My sister, who is the DRMD clinic head nurse, came in and basically force feed me food until I felt a little better. And then, a first year teacher named David Kern knocked on my office door and came in with care package of things that he ran out to the store to get in hopes of making me feel better. One of the things in the bag was a large bottle of grapefruit juice that he said I should drink because it would definitely make me feel better. I opened it up in front of him and took a big gulp. One thing that he was not aware of at the time was that I despise grapefruit juice. My sister however was well aware. After he left my office, my sister started hounding me saying “you like that guy”. Very defensive I responded with “no I don’t”. She looked right at me and said “You never drink grapefruit juice… you hate grapefruit juice”. I had no response…. I just stood there and thought… I do hate grapefruit juice…. What was that? Now that first year teacher is my husband!!!
Anything else that you would like to share?
If anyone is interested in donating to this year’s dance they can send a check made payable to Deep Run HS to the attention of Kathleen Kern or they can stop by the dance at any time and leave a donation if they’d like to
The Deep Run Marathon Dance 2016 Recipients that the students are dancing for this year are –
The DRMD student committee has been working hard planning for the DRMD 2016 and determining
Aidan Jack Seeger Foundation – The Aidan Jack Seeger Foundation addresses the need for
information and newborn screening for Adrenoleukodystrophy. Aidan Jack Seeger Foundation
gathers and provides current, functional information and provides financial support to families,
funds research efforts that will identify new treatments, therapies, and ultimately, a cure, as well as
raise awareness of ALD.
The Cameron K. Gallagher Memorial Foundation – Cameron K. Gallagher Memorial Foundation
strives to fulfill Cameron’s dream and legacy by being a positive force that works to cultivate
awareness and understanding of teenage depression. Cameron K. Gallagher Memorial Foundation is
actively collaborating with professionals and school staff to design a model for programs within the
schools to facilitate group and individual dialogue concerning teenage depression and anxiety.
Camp Kesem – Camp Kesem is a camp led by college student leaders to support children through
and beyond their parent’s cancer. Camp Kesem wants to provide a fun-filled week while providing
services and extra support that the campers need.
CureSearch for Children’s Cancer – CureSearch for Children’s Cancer’s mission is to end children’s
cancer by driving targeted and innovative research with measurable results in an accelerated time
frame. With 58% of childhood death caused by cancer, CureSearch is determined to lower this
percentage through treatments and cures.
FeedMore Inc. – FeedMore is Central Virginia’s leader in hunger relief as it is focused on nourishing
the community and empowering lives. FeedMore will improve the quality of life of those in need,
listen to their clients and respond to their needs with urgency and respect, be a national model of
excellence, efficiency, diversity and sustainability, and maximize all resources to achieve their
vision that none shall go hungry.
Friendship Circle of Virginia – Friendship Circle of Virginia encourages companionship and social
opportunities for children and individuals with disabilities by helping to create meaningful social
experiences at home and throughout the community. Through the use of teen friends, Friendship
Circle of Virginia encourages understanding, acceptance, and true friendship.
Greater Richmond SCAN Inc. – Greater Richmond SCAN is dedicated to the prevention and
treatment of child abuse and neglect. SCAN provides awareness, support, and education needed to
enhance the lives of children.
National Alliance on Mental Illness of Central Virginia (NAMI-CVA) – NAMI Central Virginia
promotes recovery and seeks to improve the lives of Central Virginians with serious mental illness
through education, support, resources, advocacy, and anti-stigma campaigns. NAMI Central Virginia
proudly provides free education programs and support for individuals, families, and the Central
Service Dogs of Virginia – Service Dogs of Virginia raises, trains, and places dogs to assist people
with disabilities. Ranging from physical assistance, autism service, and diabetic alert, service dogs
enable a person to live with greater independence.
The McShin Foundation – The McShin Foundation is Virginia’s leading non-profit, full service
Recovery Community Organization, committed to serving individuals and families in their fight
against Substance Use Disorders.
Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation – Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation provides
rehabilitation and training for offenders through the use of ex-racehorses. Thoroughbred
Retirement Foundation is the world’s largest, best known, and most respected charitable
organization devoted to equine rescue. People are helping horses and horses are helping people.
We Heart Harlie and Friends – We Heart Harlie and Friends has the goal of changing children’s
lives and making their world a better place. Harlie, Alex, Eden, and Ella have medical challenges
that do not have an easy, clear cut solution. We Heart Harlie and Friends raises money for travel
costs and any medical treatment needed for these four ladies.