O'Connell's 40-year Superdance tradition

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At Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, Superdance is an inseparable part of the school's identity. A 40-year-old tradition of having fun and helping people, Superdance is a 12-hour dance dedicated to raising money to find a cure for cystic fibrosis.

What is now a fun-filled evening has its roots in sadness. In 1975, O'Connell sophomore Brenda O'Donnell died from cystic fibrosis. Brenda's friends and classmates were devastated and wanted to do something in her memory. Brenda's sister, Maura, an O'Connell junior, worked with then-principal, Msgr. James McMurtrie, to organize a 12-hour dance fundraiser to benefit cystic fibrosis research - the first Superdance. Tragically, after graduating from O'Connell, Maura died from cystic fibrosis in 1978.

In the 40 years since the first Superdance, O'Connell has raised nearly $4 million to support cystic fibrosis research programs to increase the life expectancy of CF patients, with the goal of eventually finding a cure.

One of the many O'Connell students who worked to keep Maura's dream alive through this year's Superdance was junior Walter Whitt, who has cystic fibrosis. During the Superdance assembly, he described his life with the disease, his struggles balancing the importance of junior year with keeping his lungs functional and the hope Superdance has given him that cystic fibrosis will be cured in his lifetime.

With a 1940s theme of "We Want YOU for the Cure," the 2015 Superdance held March 14 raised nearly $100,000. Students danced to 12 hours of bands and DJs until the night was closed by Radio 99.5's deejay Chris Styles.

"The only way that Superdance was able to happen this year was because of the amazing chairs, co-chairs, SCA executive board, and SCA moderators," said student body President Kylan Luna. "Some people think of this as a 12-hour dance, but it is much more than that."

As the traditional last song of Superdance closed the night - Billy Joel's "Piano Man" - students, alumni and faculty formed a circle around the gym, just as they have done for many years. Having fun on one night and raising funds for their cause, O'Connell students continue to make a difference in the fight against cystic fibrosis.

"We're able to impact the lives of so many," said Luna.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015