Dallastown Area High School gets Down 'n Dirty for charity


Teams of students on Friday will scour a mud pit for hidden objects and then wade through the muck as a part of Dallastown Area High School's Down 'n Dirty fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

The mud pit, the event for which the fundraiser has come to be known, is one of 11 down and dirty competitions that will take place this week in its new location at the high school's soccer fields.

The event will also boast a Tie-Dye Dash in which students will have paint splashed on them as they run and the Ultimate Frisbee Championship game. The tournament began with 11 teams of 15 on Tuesday and will continue through the week.

Teams register for each event, and all participation fees are donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

"Down 'n Dirty also takes place on a half day, the last day of finals for the high school," said English teacher and event coordinator Gwen Murphy. "Not only is this event a good cause, but it's also like a kick-off to summer."

Team Shad: Murphy's son Shad was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 2004, and Dallastown Area High School's gym teacher and Volunteer Club faculty advisor, Pat McKinney, wanted to garner community involvement and support for her co-worker's cause.

McKinney started her fundraising efforts in 2005 with an awareness walk but wanted to do more.

"We did that for the first two years or so, and then I heard about this Muddy Buddies event where people race through the mud and do these kind of fun competitions, and I thought that would be a good way to get more involvement," McKinney said.

Thus, the Down 'n Dirty fundraiser was born — and in its inaugural year, boasted 22 teams of five.

Now, eight years in, it has 69 teams registered, McKin-ney said. "I expect to have about 75 by the time things are all settled on Friday. The event has only kept growing.

"I'll never forget that first year; it was freezing and I was watching these kids stomp through the mud and come out shivering, and they still said it was the most fun they ever had."

Since 2005, the Volunteer Club, with the help of the Dallastown community, has donated more than $150,000 to the foundation.

This year, Shad, a freshman at Dover High School, will participate in the competition.

Fun for all: Down 'n Dirty is the biggest student participation event of the year.

"Lots of kids come out to football games and a bunch come to see the musical, but everyone participates in this," Murphy said. "All 500 to 600 students coming out join in, they all sweat and they all get dirty."

Murphy and McKinney made it a priority to facilitate participation by making the games accessible to all.

"It doesn't require any type of athletic ability," McKinney said. "It's just a bunch of silly, goofy games in the mud that kids can get competitive about, and they really do. You hear a lot of negative stuff about teenagers today, but you won't see any of that out here. You will see friendship, competition and camaraderie."

In addition to the mud pit, students will participate in a waterslide race, an uphill climb that entails climbing up an incline covered in soap and shampoo, and the NASCAR event — a race on tricycles.

The mud pit will be covered in netting that students will have to crawl under, forcing them to truly get down and dirty, McKinney said.

"They'll have to crawl through that and then each teammate will have to look for these little frogs that we bought," she said.

Involvement: Students and teachers spend the entire year fundraising for any costs the competition incurs, McKinney said, so all funds can go directly to the charity.

Local businesses and restaurants also donate food for the event as well as several prize packages.

"The most rewarding thing is seeing kids come back to participate," Murphy said. "Of course the money for the research is a phenomenal benefit, but to see kids that move on from the school and still want to do something to benefit this cause is a great feeling. They're not doing this only because its fun or because it's something to do; it has become something that our community is really passionate about."

Admission to the event is $5 and includes complimentary food and beverages.

"It's so funny to watch the kids, because they just play," McKinney said. "They get dirty and play in the mud and really just have fun. People should come out and watch, these kids are doing something with a purpose, so come and cheer for these high school kids that are benefiting a great cause."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.