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Stevenson's Spirit Fest Aims to Break World Record, Support Charity

Saturday's event, which is open to the entire community, will benefit the Lauri S. Bauer Foundation for Sudden Loss.

School spirit and community spirit will merge Saturday for ’s annual Spirit Fest, a community that raises funds for a local charity. 

A highlight of this year’s event will be an effort to break the world record for the most people salsa dancing while holding glow sticks.

“Each person will have a green glow stick in one hand and a yellow one in another as they dance in a salsa line in the shape of an ‘S’ for Stevenson,” said Brett Erdmann, a Stevenson teacher who serves as community service coordinator and sponsor of the National Honor Society, which runs Spirit Fest.

Dance students at the school have taught members of the National Honor Society (NHS) how to do the salsa. The NHS members — about 450 of them — will be on the field to guide other participants. The effort will be photographed and videotaped and the documentation will be submitted to Guinness World Records.

The current record for glow stick salsa dancing is held by 418 participants, according to Guinness World Records. Last year, for a similar record-breaking attempt. .

“This should be a record we should be able to break,” Erdmann said of this year’s attempt. He has enough glow sticks that will light up in Stevenson's school colors for 1,000 participants, he said.

The effort is expected to begin around 8 p.m., when participants will gather on the field for a crash course in salsa dancing before the feat officially begins. It will follow the school’s 5K Spirit Walk, scheduled to begin around 7:15 p.m., and will be capped by a fireworks display.

A committee of about 100 NHS members began planning Spirit Fest last spring, even meeting during summer vacation. They, along with the rest of the organization’s members, will be on hand Saturday to sell food and run activities.

Draws will include opportunities to soak Erdmann and a roster of other Stevenson teachers and administrators in a dunk tank; an inflatable obstacle course; human foosball; and performances by student bands and a student disc jockey.

All in the name of charity

Erdmann said he hopes the event will mirror the success of last year’s Spirit Fest, which raised $20,000 for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Lake County. He hopes 1,200 to 1,500 people will attend this year.

Most of funds are generated from admission fees, but money is also collected through food sales, raffles and the dunk tank. All proceeds are donated to the event's beneficiary.

A committee of National Honor Society members review applications from dozens of local nonprofits and narrow the choices down to eight each year. The committee brings a recommendation to the rest of the organization’s members, who cast votes to determine which one will receive the money.

This year’s beneficiary is the Lauri S. Bauer Foundation for Sudden Loss. The foundation is named for .

“I think students know the foundation, but more importantly, the cause of the charity resonates with students,” Erdmann said. “I can name more than a handful of students who have had to deal with that.”

Long Grove resident Scott Bauer, who began the organization in his wife’s memory, said he was thrilled to learn that the foundation was selected.

“The goal is to create awareness of what we do,” he said. The funds raised will help support the Lauri Bauer/Barr-Harris Grief Center, and possibly allow the organization to add another therapist to its staff, Bauer said.

The two current full-time therapists have been “booked nonstop,” he said. The foundation subsidizes the expenses that are not covered by insurance. Since November, the grief center has provided 250 sessions for 45 children. Bauer said a second location is scheduled to open in Evanston this fall.

“There are really not a lot of other places for people to turn,” he said. “We’re filling a much needed void in the community. That’s the fortunate and the unfortunate part about it.”

The foundation also offers an outreach program that provides workshops for educators on how to deal with children’s grief. Through those workshops, which have included sessions for Stevenson social workers, they have reached an estimated 70,000 children, Bauer said.

Spirit Fest, he said, is a chance to "rally the community to get behind a cause."

“It’s so great,” said Stevenson senior and NHS President Neil Edat. “It’s amazing what we’re doing for the Lauri S. Bauer Foundation. Sudden loss is something that everyone has trouble dealing with.”

As NHS leader, Edat will be a key part of Saturday’s event, where his responsibilities will include coordinating a number of activities and delivering a speech to the crowd. He also plans to make time for fun, noting that he’ll be in line to try his hand at dunking a teacher. After he helps ensure all details are in place for the record-breaking attempt, he plans to join the salsa dance, too. 

“It’s for a great cause and it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Spirit Fest will run from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 15 in Stevenson’s football stadium. Admission is $10 per person, $20 for a family of three, $25 for a family of four and $30 for five or more family members. The fee is considered a minimum donation, can be paid in advance online or at the event.

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