Back in action after a three-year hiatus, Eastlake Middle School students are ready to bust a move for a great cause at the Autism Awareness Dance-a-Thon

We Sch April
More than 100 Eastlake Middle School students are expected to take to the dance floor at the Autism Awareness Dance-a-Thon and stay on their feet for the duration of the 12-hour event.

By Mimi Vanderhaven

When it comes to giving back, the students at Eastlake Middle School believe in thinking big and following their hearts in action—and in wearing thick socks. On Saturday, April 15, they’ll be cutting the rug from noon until midnight at the 13th Annual Autism Awareness Dance-a-Thon.

“This is our first year back after the pandemic and we’re thrilled,” says Autism Intervention Specialist Angela Minichello, who runs the event along with fellow Intervention Specialist Ellen Murfey. “Everyone comes together—the students who are dancing, past students who return, individual donors sponsoring the dancers and businesses in the community that donate.”

More than 100 sixth-through eighth- grade students are expected to take to the dance floor and stay on their feet for the duration of the event. Each has pledged to raise at least $75 in donations. Since the Dance-a-Thon’s inception, more than $131,000 has been raised to benefit local autism awareness and research programs. This year, the programs include Share a Vision, the Miracle League, Footprint Center for Autism and Kent State University’s Career and Community Studies Program. At the 3 p.m. check presentation, representatives from each organization will speak.

“An important component to our event is building awareness and empathy,” says Ellen. “Our goal is for students to more fully understand what it’s like to walk the halls of our school and not be able to escape triggers that could severely bother you. Also, throughout the event, we are inviting families dealing with autism to speak. There are approximately 15 students in the school’s autism resource rooms.”

Anyone in the community can join the fun.

“With a nominal cover charge as donation, they can enjoy the dancers, get a bite at the concession stand and shop from merchandise,” says Angela.

Look for these monthly stories to cover topics from grades K-12 in the Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools System. Donations to the Autism Awareness Dance-a-Thon can be made in person at the event or mailed to Eastlake Middle School, c/o Angela Minichello or Ellen Murfey, 35972 Lakeshore Boulevard in Eastlake, OH, 44095. For details, visit