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Dance Marathon Held in Honor of BigJohny
David Lloyd
Staff Writer

On a frigid Friday night in North Manchester, Manchester Activities Council (MAC) transported family and friends alike to a lovely luau dance marathon to honor the late Alina BigJohny, who died in the tragic Indiana State Fair stage collapse in 2011. 

BigJohny, an English and education major, graduated in 2011 and her presence is still fondly felt throughout the campus. “Alina was one person that was very dear to my heart,” said Miro Aruijo, a third-year MAC member. “She loved unconditionally, and was a joy to be around as she brought happiness to everyone.”

The fundraiser, a dance marathon, raised money for an education scholarship in BigJohny’s name. The entry fee was $25, which could be paid for out of pocket or raised through donations. The entry fee guaranteed five raffle tickets, and each $25 after that would earn another five chances to win numerous prizes. 

Chrissy BigJohny, Alina’s sister, approached Manchester regarding a fundraiser in her sister’s name. Alina was a member of the Manchester Dance Team, which made a Dance Marathon the most fitting option to raise money in her name. The Joe Moorhead Band, a group with a Jimmy Buffett island vibe, provided music that fit perfectly with the scenery of bouncing beach balls, leis and palm trees.

“The tropical dance party was a great way to have her family come back and enjoy the campus,” said Lexi Salcedo, an English and education major like BigJohny. “It really brought life to her memory, and helped to show her family that even two years after her death, the campus still really cares about her.”

The dance marathon was set up to have teams or individuals dance for a half hour at a time, followed by a 15-minute break in which games were played for prizes. Dancers could also be shipped off to “Exile Island,” which was a comfy set up of beach chairs off in the corner. The “exiler” would pay an amount of money to send the victim off to the island, and the victim would have to pledge twice that amount in order to leave the island. 

The island theme seemed to resonate many memories of the warmth BigJohny would bring not only to fellow students, but to her professors as well. “Alina would wear her pink flip flops to class on even the chilliest days, so I used to think that her warm personality prevented her from getting cold,” said Dr. Katharine Ings, English chair as well one of BigJohny’s professors. “She had a generous spirit and a dazzlingly infectious smile. Alina was my student throughout her four years here, most memorably in Senior Seminar. We took a train to Chicago to see a perfomance of ‘Wicked,’ and on the train home she texted my husband to let him know we wouldn’t be back until 1:00 a.m. I think she even told him to feed our children!”

The fundraiser, which was an all-night event, helped to raise $3,952 for the Alina BigJohny Memorial Scholarship. It proved to be a successful night for an even better cause, succeeding in remembrance of a former classmate, student, friend or family member, and bringing a little warmth in February to North Manchester.

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