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Don't be a Wallflower
By Jennifer Johnston
Nov 20, 2012 - 10:45:20 AM




Calling all feet to the field on December 1 to 'Cha Cha for Change'



Admit it. You cha cha in the shower. And while you brush your teeth, wait for water to boil on the stove, and try on jeans in the fitting room. Friend, don’t even play like you’re not marking those sassy little steps while you wait in line at the DMV.
 No one’s here to judge. In fact, your slick rookie moves are going to get you into one of the biggest dance contests ever. EVER. Well, along with over 3,347 other dancers.
On Saturday, December 1, our community will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of people doing this step-and-slide number at the “Cha Cha for Change” event at Blackbaud Stadium. And the best part isn’t even the bragging rights (or the excuse to go public with your subconscious choreo); it’s the fact that it benefits an amazing local organization.
 The Journey House was started back in 2011, just months after Amy and Matt McEvoy learned that their daughter Ansley was in Stage 3 of a rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. In that time, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Children’s Hospital became their unexpected home away from home, yet they had the comfort of knowing that their real home was just a few miles away. Though the diagnosis and path of treatment served a huge blow to the McEvoys, they realized through the process that it can be completely devastating to families who do not live in close proximity to MUSC. These parents are repeatedly driving hours to clinic visits, and family members are often separated for long periods of time during hospitalizations because the cost of lodging for the entire family is just too great.
 The philanthropic seed was planted, and even though Amy and Matt were in the throes of caring for their own daughter, they took the idea of opening a place where families could stay while their children were being treated at MUSC from inkling to planning and gave it a fitting name: The Journey House. There is a tendency to compare The Journey House concept to the Ronald McDonald House, but there are vital differences. “We think Ronald McDonald House is great,” explains Amy, “but our model will allow families to reserve a room in advance, whereas Ronald McDonald House is first-come, first-serve on arrival.” The Journey House is also more faith-based, but Amy is quick to note it is more in honoring the way they were inspired to create this space, and that faith is neither a criteria for admission nor an overly-conspicuous element of the accommodations. Adds fundraising coordinator Marie Elena Roland, “I really believe this could become a national model for children's hospitals.”
 The Journey House is a non-profit organization with a board of directors, and it is in the process of raising funds and locating a renovation-ready home downtown Charleston from which to roll out its welcome mat. The group has identified a builder who has agreed to donate time and talent once the space has been purchased. In the interim, Journey House is providing such necessities as cafeteria meal vouchers and gasoline gift cards to families in need. And it is drumming up awareness throughout the Lowcountry.
Last December, the McEvoys held the first annual “Ansley’s Attempt” to do just that, as well as to honor their daughter’s fighting spirit. They asked Ansley, a talented colorer, to create a picture that they could transform into a record-setting mosaic. She drew a colorful rendering of her family underneath a rainbow, which was blown up, transferred to 1,200 donated foam boards, and colored by students at local schools. And on Saturday, December 3, 2011 – the same day as Ansley’s last chemotherapy treatment – over 4,000 people assembled in Blackbaud Stadium to participate in or witness the Guinness World Record for Largest Mosaic Picture ever created. The event took countless hours of preparation off the field, and a sizeable amount of cooperation on the field, to make it all come together. “Crazy enough, it worked!” recalls Amy.
And it was just so crazy that they figured they could make it into the big book again. But this year, they wanted to achieve a feat that was a little less taxing on the front-end, easier for participants of any age to jump right into, and could double as a fundraising effort. A group dance was suggested, with easy choreography and potential for big fun. The cha cha made the final cut, and further research indicated that the last record set for Greatest Number of People Doing the Cha Cha was in July 2011 with 3,347 participants. The McEvoys felt that, based on last year’s enthusiastic attendance, that record could be smashed for The Journey House.
And so “Cha Cha for Change” was named. On Saturday, December 1, 2012, supporters from all over the Charleston area will take to the field at Blackbaud stadium, get a quick cha cha lesson and run the steps a few times, then do the dance in unison for about four minutes. The record will be broken not by the length of time (or the accuracy of the choreography…), but by the number of participants; Cha Cha for Change needs 3,348 dancers to get the nod from the Guinness adjudicator watching from the stadium bleachers.
Of course, the more cha cha-ing Charlestonians, the merrier, and the organizers have made it a real party by lining up entertainment, activities, and food. Local dance and gymnastic teams will be performing before the big dance number, and jump castles and the InTown Buck Truck will keep little and big kids giggling. Chick Fil A, Starbucks, and Krispy Kreme will be on hand to fuel those eight-counts. The team from Camp Happy Days is volunteering their time for the event, and a couple families who have been served by The Journey House will be present to share their stories and join in the festivities.
The "change" in the event title has a double-meaning: it speaks to the goal of turning around the experience for families of sick children, and also to the fundraising aspect of this year's effort. “We are encouraging people to put a change jar in their house and bring what they collect as a donation," says Roland. "It's a great way to get kids involved.” The group is suggesting a $5 minimum donation, though more or less is welcome. And Amy points out that contributions need not actually be in "change" form - bills are certainly accepted! Bracelets will be distributed at the Blackbaud Stadium gate as attendees check in order to get a legitimate headcount. The event will run from 10 a.m. to noon, but cha cha participants are encouraged to arrive a few minutes early.
The Journey House is counting on participation from local school groups, including sports teams, bands, and other clubs, as well as church and business groups. They are also seeking sponsors for the event in an effort to help cover costs. Current sponsors include Benefitfocus, Marriott SpringHill Suites Riverview, WXLY 102.5, and Roper Hospital, as well as Daniel Island-based businesses Paisley, Alchemy, Talison Row Apartments, and InTown.  It is hoped that Cha Cha for Change brings in $50,000 for The Journey House to further its mission and take another giant step toward the bricks-and-mortar haven for these overwhelmed families.
And it will be just one giant step of many more to come. Amy tells us they will continue to hold these record-setting challenges each year, timing it with the popular Daniel Island Holiday Festival. "We'll keep bringing creative, fun events that are memorable," she promises. Who knows, maybe next year the folks at The Journey House will recruit your mad hopscotch skills.
If you are interested in sponsoring Cha Cha for Change, or have a group that would like to perform at the event, please contact Marie Elena Roland at me@givebackperiod.com. Learn more about the challenge at chachaforchange.com, and the organization at thejourneyhouse.org.



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