The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

February 27, 2014

Zumbathons can benefit children, homeless activists

By Luanne Williams for the SNAP

Thursday, February 27, 2014 — Fitness and philanthropy are going hand in hand with a series of Zumbathons in Stanly County.

Enthusiasts of the fast-paced, Latin-flavored exercise dance had a chance Feb. 8 to make their moves count for the YMCA. In March, they will be able to salsa, merengue or cut a rug with cumbia, all to benefit the Butterfly House. And later this spring, Homes of Hope will get the proceeds from a third dance party event.

Troy and Kathy Connell, owners of Just Dance Fitness, are sponsoring the March 15 Zumbathon, set for 10 a.m to noon at the Stanly County Senior Center, where all proceeds from the $15 participation fee will go to the child advocacy center affiliated with Stanly Regional Medical Center.

“My wife and I look for ways to do things with Zumba that help bring awareness and give back to the community,” Troy Connell said.

“We look at organizations that touch our hearts.

“There are only 29 of these child advocacy centers across the state, so the Butterfly House serves more than Stanly County. A lot of people don’t know all that they do.”

Located on the hospital campus, the center helps evaluate cases of child maltreatment. Law enforcement agents who suspect abuse can bring a child to the center and have his or her interview recorded via closed-circuit TV, saving the child from having to repeat difficult details to prosecutors, judges or others as the case progresses. The center also offers physical examinations, counseling and follow-up services.

Amy Yow, Butterfly House director, said the agency has an ongoing need for funding. A budget shortfall has left her unable to fill a victim advocate post vacant since November.

Yow said the March Zumbathon is a perfect way for the community to gear up for April’s observance of Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.

“We really want to challenge people to come out, even if they don’t regularly do Zumba,” Yow said.

“Just come out and have fun and know that every dance move you make, you are helping a child.”

Connell is seeking corporate sponsors to cover the costs for advertising, location rental and door prizes for the Zumbathon. Businesses will be featured on banners and in other promotions.

“These events are geared to be a party,” Connell said.

“They are festive, like a big old jubilee, homecoming type thing. We get people together from all the different gyms. It’s not about competition; it’s about community.”

Doors at the Senior Center, 283 N. Third St., Albemarle, will open at 9 a.m. March 15, so people will have time to register before dancing begins at 10 a.m. Connell anticipates at least 100 participants and would love to see the location reach its maximum capacity of 225, he said. Instructors, in addition to Connell, will include Lisa Whitley, Crystal Dove, Stephanie Riopelle and Nathan Connell.

Later in the spring, Just Dance Fitness plans a similar Zumbathon benefit for Homes of Hope, a non-profit organization that battles homelessness.

Meanwhile, the Stanly County YMCA raised more than $300 with its Zumbathon earlier this month. Five instructors led about 30 participants through the dance moves, with some songs accompanied by a bongo drummer. The funds were raised to help with the organization's six signature programs: Livestrong, Open Doors Scholarships, Sunday Lunch Program, Second Grade Learn to Swim, Backpack Program and Darkness to Light. The Y plans a similar fundraiser soon involving a kettle bell and cycling class.

To find out more about Zumbathons, visit www.

Luanne Williams is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.