PORTLAND — Chandler Hawkes grew a little weary toward the end.

Hawkes, 19, was one of 50 or so people left standing as STRIVE’s 14-hour dance marathon came to an end at 10 a.m. Sunday at the University of Southern Maine’s Sullivan Gymnasium.

In the last half hour of the event, Hawkes nudged his mother, Debbie Corbeau of Portland, to the front of the conga line dancing around the gym.

“I don’t know how they do it,” said Chandler’s sister, Charesah Hawkes, who drove from Boston on Saturday to volunteer at the event. “I don’t know how they stay up all night long.”

Dancers raise funds and pledges to participate, and all funds go directly to support STRIVE, a nonprofit that offers social, educational and employment training programs for teenagers and young adults with developmental disabilities.

Hawkes, 19, has Down syndrome and attends post-graduate classes at Deering High School.

He was the top fundraiser for the marathon for a third year in a row, collecting $1,615.

“(I want) to thank my family, my mom and my friends,” he said.

More than 500 people participated in the dance marathon. As of 10 a.m. Sunday, the event had raised $28,400. Some participants earned VIP status for raising more than $300. It gave them a chance to meet the live bands, and the right to cut in line for food or to play a game.

Peter Brown, STRIVE director, said the event gives the program much-needed funds and an opportunity for the people it serves to show the community their capabilities. He said about 100 people volunteered at the event.

“It’s something they can do to give back,” Brown said. “They look forward to this all year long.”

STRIVE member J.J. Sarapas, 25, said he liked the live bands and being with his friends. He danced until 4 a.m. “I did it ’cause it’s fun,” he said. “It gets people out.”

D.J. Charette, 18, who also participates in STRIVE, said he had fun dancing.

“I liked that there was a break in the middle,” Charette said.

Corbeau, Hawkes’ mother, said the program helps him with daily living and social skills, and gets him involved in the community.

“The STRIVE staff is such an amazing group,” Corbeau said. “They are dedicated and nurturing and provide so many incredible opportunities for teens and young adults with disabilities.”

Also participating in the event were members of the Key Clubs at several local high schools, including Deering, Cheverus, Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth.

Caitlin Very, 17, a junior at Deering, said it was her first year participating in the event. “We had tons and tons of fun,” she said. “When we started getting tired, we screamed and jumped around more, which kept us awake.”

Brittany Boilard, 16, a junior at Cheverus, admitted taking a short nap around 8 a.m.

“It was a long haul,” she said.


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