February 2013 Volunteers of the Month
Washington Township High School Interact Club
Raising money is not easy. Raising $150,000 over ten years is extremely difficult. Doing that while keeping over 500 teenagers organized, motivated, and energized is a task that might only be described as Herculean. That is just what the Washington Township High School Interact Club did and that has helped to make them our February 2013 volunteers of the Month.
The Interact Club has raised money and awareness for people with ALS through their yearly Monzo Madness dance-a-thon event since 2003. The event began through the hard work of Tracy Naval in honor of her three siblings who lost their own battles with ALS, including her sister, Ms. Monzo. Tracy and the Interact Club at that time wanted to make their mark in the community and their impact has grown by leaps and bounds ever since that first event.
That first year started with 50 kids and raised $2,800, an impressive event by any measure and one that would make any educator proud.
To the students and staff who make up the Interact Club though, the response was “we can do even better if we try.”
Tracy has since moved on from Washington Township High School, but her dedication to the cause continues through the hard work of the Interact Club and advisor April Renzetti and her co-advisor Natalie Taylor. The coordination of this event has benefited by April and Natalie’s leadership, but they are the first to point out that it is truly a team effort.
Just like Tracy, April is motivated by her own personal experience with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She lost her uncle to ALS when she was young. Now her motivation is matched by the commitment of the students who share her vision of a world without ALS.
Of course that vision only becomes a reality through hard work, and Monzo Madness takes months of work to pull off effectively. April, Natalie, and their homeroom team at the Interact Club begin planning for the January event in early November. The event is like one big prom that doesn’t end, but to put on that much fun means a great deal of coordination. They put together a ten page packet for permission slips, rules sheets, donation sheets, sponsorship pages, and more. Then they educate everybody in the Interact Club on the details, distribute the packets, and count on them to collect the money.
That is all before anybody makes one dance move. It takes many hours to count the money when it comes into the club. One person paid $100 in coins.
April, Tracy, and Natalie are all extremely proud of the work the students put into the event and the types of people they have become as a result. “These kids are no joke,” said April. “They put hours and hours into this for the love of helping others. Some past Presidents of the Interact Club have gone onto develop a legacy of service.”
The students learn about ALS, but also about how to put together a successful event. They seek out supporters and sponsors from the community. “The community is incredible,” said April. “We don’t pay for any of the food or water. On top of the paperwork and coordination, we go to every store, vendor and person who would be willing to donate food, time or gift prizes.” The DJ even donates his time for the full 24 hours without any charge to the club!
This year the prizes included specially created necklaces from a local jeweler, gift certificates to local restaurants, and even box seats to see the Philadelphia Sixers and Phillies. Shoprite, Acme and other stores donate cases of water, the local Italian restaurant brings in huge platters of pasta, and a local bakery also brings in delicious and endless amounts of pastries, all to keep the students who attend the dance-a-thon energized and upbeat.
Two students this year had relatives with ALS and one student’s mother sent in ten cases of water while one sent in pizza. Each year, as the Interact Club raises awareness of the disease, more and more people reveal their own connections.
These young people are developing connections to the community, to each other, and to a greater cause as they learn a valuable lesson in generosity.
The Interact Club needs to raise money for many events, but the money raised from Monzo Madness goes exclusively to fighting ALS. This year was their biggest yet and the Principal and the entire staff were in awe as they raised $30,000.
It takes a lot of work to raise that kind of money, but if anyone can muster the energy and compassion it takes to do it, it would be the Washington Township High School Interact Club. We are all grateful and inspired by their example.
Check out news from this year’s amazing Monzo Madness Event!