Dancing to the Beat of Friendship

On a Sunday afternoon in March, six girls danced their hearts out for three hours at Amanda’s DanceXtensions, a studio in Florham Park. Their goal? To raise money for the Friendship Circle.

After months of planning and effort, Charley Goren, a seventh grader at the Heritage Middle School in Livingston, pulled it off. The dance-a-thon fundraiser, raised $1400. It combined Goren’s passion for dance with her interest in helping kids with special abilities. Sponsors – a mix of mostly friends and family – had signed up to pay for each dance minute.

“Dancing just comes naturally,” Charley told FCNJ. “I move with the music and it makes me feel free.” She discovered her love for movement at age 2, and today, she loves acro-dancing.

Her interest in kids with special abilities was piqued after reading “Out of My Mind,” a novel by Sharon Draper about a fifth grade girl with cerebral palsy. “She has all these thoughts stuck in her head and she can’t express any of it,” said Goren.

At 12, searching for a mitzvah project, Goren knew it would have to include dance. She headed to an orientation at the Friendship Circle, assuming she would volunteer there as well; but when the hours didn’t work out, she realized there was just one option: a dance-a-thon to benefit the Friendship Circle.

She rounded up a group of five friends, and when the appointed Sunday in March arrived, they headed for the studio. When the music started, they got into a groove. There was just one rule: The Scrunchie Rule. Whether they were dancing to Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Rihanna, Meghan Trainor, Katy Perry, or any of the other pop artists on Goren’s playlist, whoever was wearing the scrunchie had to be dancing. The girls could take brief water or bathroom breaks; but the scrunchie had to be on the dance floor at all times. 

“No one thought I would be able to dance for more than an hour but we did it!” she said. “I learned that if I set my mind to something, I can do it.” And she added, after presenting a check for $1400 to Friendship Circle, “It felt really good to give them the check. I was really happy.”

Just a few weeks later, on April 3, Goren celebrated becoming a bat mitzvah in a service on top of Masada, in Israel. “The whole experience was really special,” she said.

“There is so much to be learned from teens who put their whole selves into making the world a better place. We are so inspired by Charley’s effort and her message that we can all accomplish so much more than we sometimes think we can,” said Esty Grossbaum, program director at Friendship Circle.

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