JAM dance marathon is Saturday

January 31, 2019

La PORTE — The second annual “JAM” dance marathon will be held at the La Porte Civic Auditorium this Saturday.

The dance marathon is set to begin at 5 p.m. and conclude at 9 p.m. and is intended to help raise awareness to the importance of early heart screenings, and collect money for high school students to have these tests done free of charge.

This event was born out of tragedy after the unexpected passing of New Prairie High School student Mark Mayfield who died following an intramural basketball game.

This loss sparked an idea from four New Prairie High School students who made it their mission to bring awareness to the potential of underlying heart conditions.

“Seeing firsthand how this tragedy has affected my community has made me realize how important it is to stay up to date with heart health,” said Allie Palmer, one of the creators of the JAM dance marathon. “Undetected heart conditions can affect anyone because everyone has a heart.”

The sudden and unexpected nature of Mayfield’s passing was reminiscent of a similar tragedy that had struck La Porte a few years prior. La Porte High School student, Jake West collapsed on the field during football practice in September of 2013, resulting in his death.

Both West and Mayfield were seemingly healthy athletes who succumbed to previously undiscovered heart complications. That is why the students settled on naming the event “JAM” an acronym for “Jake and Mark” to represent both of the teen’s memories.

“We came up with this idea a little over a year ago after we created a public service announcement for our Health Occupations Students Association project discussing how the La Porte and New Prairie communities came together after Jake and Mark died, events we viewed as true disasters,” said Megan Boyd, another creator of the event and New Prairie High School student. “Our message was to show how our communities came together to raise awareness for the prevalence of undetected heart conditions.”

The Play for Jake Foundation is an organization founded by West’s mother, Julie Schroeder, which provides heart screenings for high school students. The foundation brings in medical professionals to area schools to perform tests such as electrocardiograms (EKGs) and echocardiograms on students during regular school hours.

“Raising awareness for undetected heart conditions has become something each one of us has strived to bring attention to ever since we started this project and ever since we started working with The Play for Jake Foundation,” said NPHS student Callie Metzger. “It has become so important to us because we have seen firsthand how undetected heart conditions can affect a family, and even a community

“When Jake and Mark passed, both due to undetected heart conditions, we all knew we wanted to do something. Something that would bring awareness to this terrible tragedy and something that would honor them and their families,” Metzger added. “We want others to know that undetected heart conditions are very serious and that they can happen to anyone. Sometimes you don’t even see signs or feel any symptoms with certain heart conditions. With a complete heart screening, undetected heart conditions can be prevented.”

The proceeds from the JAM dance marathon will go to the Play for Jake Foundation and the Mayfield family who put the money into a scholarship in Mark’s name.

Last year the event raised $1,330 for each cause. The team is hoping to beat that number this year by opening the doors to more students and community members.

“This year, in hopes of raising the number of attendees as well as breaking the boundaries of rivalry, we have extended our invite to New Prairie and La Porte eighth graders as well as both New Prairie and La Porte High Schools and anyone who knew Jake or Mark,” Palmer explained.

The cost of admission is only $5. The event will feature raffles and door prizes, food, music and dancing.

“Bringing two rival schools together and this year including the three middle school eighth graders speaks volumes of how our community came together after losing Jake and Mark,” said Play for Jake Foundation Founder Julie Schroeder. “To see this dance continue will help raise awareness, provide free heart screenings for future La Porte and New Prairie students and honor Mark at New Prairie through a scholarship. It would benefit all students so I hope to see a packed Civic and give back to two wonderful causes.”

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