UPPER DUBLIN >> High school students put on their dancing shoes for a good cause Feb. 10 at a “Simon Says … Dance!” event organized by senior Paige Florin.
One of seven student ambassadors for Simon’s Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to raising awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and death in young athletes and children, the 17-year-old from Dresher has been involved with the nonprofit for more than four years.
Simon’s Fund, established in memory of Simon Sudman, an infant who passed away in his sleep in 2005 due to a little-known heart defect, Long QT syndrome, organizes free heart screenings to try to detect otherwise non-detected, serious, often genetic heart conditions that could lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
In 2012, while in eighth grade, Paige heard about Simon’s Fund and thought “it was a good community service thing to get involved in,” so she organized a free heart screening for students for her bat mitzvah project. One student at the screening “was found to have a heart condition and the girl had surgery a couple years ago and is okay now,” Paige said.
Of the 14,308 hearts checked at Simon’s Fund screenings, 104 lives have been changed, according to a posting on the nonprofit’s website.
To help raise money for the free screening, which costs $10,000, Paige hosted a Secret Admirer project that year, and has helped raise $2,100 in total so far.
She also has helped with screenings at other schools, and been involved in a music video and a People magazine photo shoot for Simon’s Fund.
Brandon Cohen, a junior at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, came up with the idea of starting an ambassador program and reached out to her and high school students at Radnor, Wissahickon, Springside-Chestnut Hill, Germantown Academy and Penn Charter, Paige said.
“Each ambassador was asked to come up with their own program,” she said. Hers is the “Simon Says … Dance!” with all proceeds going to Simon’s Fund.
Every year Simon’s Fund has a Soiree for adults, its largest fundraising event, Paige’s mother, Jill Florin, said. “As an ambassador, Paige wanted to start something new … a yearly student event around Valentine’s Day, like the Soiree, but casual.”
It took about a year to organize, Paige said, getting approval from the district, reserving the gym, booking a DJ and getting raffle items.
It’s not for her senior culminating project, she said, “It’s just a project I’m doing, because I wanted to give back to Simon’s Fund before I leave high school.”
Forty students attended the dance, which was another way to raise money for the screenings, and a total of $1,100 was raised between ticket sales and raffles, Jill Florin said. State Rep. Tom Murt also “stopped by and spoke to everyone,” she said.
Raffle items included tickets to a Flyers game; a Philadelphia 76ers package including club box tickets, merchandise and apparel; Life in Color paint dance party tickets; and two tickets for a Color Run 5K — “they throw paint at you while you run,” Paige said.
A member of Key Club, National Honor Society and the French Club at school, Paige noted Simon’s Fund hosts a 5K Run and a golf outing every year.
“I wanted to use the trademark and start something new,” she said.