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updated: 7/15/2014 5:25 PM

St. Charles dance marathon to raise funds for teen arts

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Teenagers and adults in the Batavia, Elgin and St. Charles areas are urged to put on their dancing shoes for a good cause Friday.

The Teen Writers and Artists Project will host a "T-WAAP Sock Hop" dance marathon, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Marquee Youth Stage in the lower level of The Quad (Charlestowne Mall), 3800 E. Main St., St. Charles.

The event, open to all ages, aims to raise funds to sustain the nonprofit group's existing programs and create more arts events for teens, said Executive Director Diana Zwinak.

"This is our first one," said Zwinak, adding that organizers hope to raise $5,000, which will be matched dollar-for-dollar by The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

"We can sustain our programming for the next year on that," said Zwinak, a DeKalb-area high school English teacher who started the organization seven years ago after seeing a decline in arts classes in schools. "We are trying to get as many people as we can to raise funds for us. We would really like to encourage anybody and everybody who wants to show up to come out and watch the teens. They can donate and dance too while they are there."

The Teen Writers and Artists Project hosts many events, including the weekly "West Suburban Wordplay" workshop and open mic experience for teens. The group also hosts a multigenerational live literary event every other month and artistic showcases throughout the year.

"Most of the work that we do right now is done by volunteers," Zwinak said. "We are dedicated to mentoring teens in whatever art form that they want to pursue."

The purpose is to get teens involved in the arts and put them in touch with professionals in the field through one-on-one and group sessions, online meetings and workshops, Zwinak said.

"We serve teens in Batavia, St. Charles and Elgin," she said. "Even though we are out in the suburbs, there's a lot of people that cannot afford to get arts training."

The group hosts three events monthly -- one in each town -- serving roughly 25 teens at each location. One of its main events is the "Wordplay" writing workshop where teens get to do an hour of writing, an hour of open mic, and meet a featured artist.

A large number of participants in the Elgin area come from Elgin and Bartlett high schools. Programs are held at the Gail Borden Public Library and typically are the most well attended, Zwinak said.

"We're doing as much as we can to provide (programs) free," Zwinak said.

Programs are primarily supported through grants and individual donors.

The cost for participating in the dance marathon is $25 per person, $40 for a team of two dancers, and $100 for a team of five people or more. Each person must set a goal of raising $100. There will be prizes for the top three fundraisers.

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