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6/4/2014 3:21:00 PM
CYO dances have all kinds of benefits
CYO photo
Kaitlyn Doherty, Ally Stewart, Sunny Engelking and Aydia Johnson from St. John the Baptist and Holy Redeemer pose for the camera during a break from dancing.
CYO photo
Kaitlyn Doherty, Ally Stewart, Sunny Engelking and Aydia Johnson from St. John the Baptist and Holy Redeemer pose for the camera during a break from dancing.

Last month ended another fun CYO dance season. Every month while school is in session, for the past eight years, MaryAnn Stewart and her husband Bryan can be found at the CYO middle school dances held at the Oaks Park Dance Pavilion. They are the CYO dance coordinators.

“As you can imagine, this job has many perks, such as the opportunity to memorize the top hits of the day, allowing us to sing along at school drop off and pick up, and watching the many attendees’ smiling faces as they enter the Dance Pavilion,” MaryAnn says.

Tom Farley, from Tunes-to-Go, has been the official CYO dance DJ for almost a decade. These days the kids are more likely to be treated to songs by Bruno Mars and Lorde than Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus. Farley has been playing hits, taking requests from kids up until the Wednesday night before each dance.

“When it comes to the young people attending these dances, less has changed over these past eight years than one would think,” says MaryAnn. “Although the ranks continue to climb each year, with an average of 350 to 400 per month, every new dance year seems to start out slowly, with attendees more likely to huddle together around the edges of a sparsely populated dance floor. But, within a short few months, new friends are mingling with old, requiring the chaperones to do some fancy foot work of their own to cross the packed dance floor.”  

The dances are always chaperoned by adults from the schools the kids attend. CYO clubs and other middle school groups wanting to raise funds have the opportunity to provide a minimum of 20 adult chaperones in return for financial support for the program of their choosing.

“We find that friendships formed from this common experience have helped ease the transition of many middle school students into their freshman year in high school,” Bryan says. “Often, this is the first social interaction they will have with other youth from the multiple grades and middle schools that feed into the high school they will be attending. Over the years we have heard from many of the high school students who have returned to the CYO dances as helpers, how much they enjoyed the dances and about the positive impact the dances had on their lives at the time.”

May brings the last dance of the school year, a time to say good-bye to the eighth graders attending their final middle school dance, while at the same time welcoming the sixth graders to their first CYO dance.

“It's not just the children that we have watched grow from their first dance in sixth grade to their last as eighth graders,” MaryAnn says. “We often see the same evolution in the parents. From the first nervous, loitering drop-off, to the final confident waive-from-a-distance.”

The Stewart family, including Bryan and MaryAnn’s mothers and their children are always around, assisting with the CYO dances.

For more information, visit the CYO website, www.cyocamphoward.org.  All dances are held 7 p.m.-10 p.m. on Friday evenings at Oaks Park. The first dance of fall is set for Sept. 26.


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