By Savannah Swix
Entirely East Lansing
Men and women of all ages gathered at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center on March 1 for the 2nd annual Zumbathon benefiting the Chris Keith Memorial Fund.
Karen Barnett, coordinator of the Chris Keith Memorial, organized the event with the support of several Zumba instructors.
“Zumba was something bright and happy in Chris’ at times very complicated life,” Barnett wrote in an email. “She was on a path of weight loss and getting healthy. (It) only seemed natural to hold a Zumbathon in her honor and to raise some funds to help her parents continue to homeschool her remaining three kids.”
Christine Keith was a Zumba instructor at Kick It Out! in East Lansing when she and her 14-year-old son became the victims of a double murder-suicide involving her estranged husband, Randy Keith, in 2013.
Christine Keith struggled with domestic violence in her marriage prior to her death and had spoken openly about it with Denise Krumm, owner of Kick It Out! Dance Studio.
“She was just a very caring, free-spirited person,” said Krumm. “Even though she was abused and battered, you would have never really known it by knowing her exterior and how much she did for people and how sweet she was.”
Zumbathon accepted donations in lieu of an entry fee to the event. The suggested amount was $10, however, many reportedly exceeded this contribution. Raffle tickets were also sold for $1 each, $5 for six, or $10 for 12. Prizes included a one-hour massage, Zumba class punch cards and a variety of Zumba T-shirts.
Misti Meersma, of Lansing, has been doing Zumba for three years, “I came one year for a different (event) and Chris was one of the instructors so I knew of her and I just think her story is heartbreaking.”
The event took place 2-4 p.m. and included a 90-minute jam session during which the attendees danced to the tune of many Latin-inspired songs as well as Top 40 hits “Black Widow” by Iggy Azalea and “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson.
“We’re dancing for something,” said instructor Meghan Laskos. “We’re not just dancing for fun. We’re dancing for her and for her memory.”
Zumba instructor Kristin Pfauth said that this event not only allows the setting to remember Keith and raise money for her family, but also bring awareness to domestic violence.
“Exercise is one of the things that really helps women feel empowered,” said Pfauth. “The more we can get women feeling good about themselves and feeling like they’re worth something, they might have a better chance at standing up.”
Through sharing Keith’s story, this Zumbathon has become an experience that many enjoy and support.
“Without ignoring the obvious, I have tried to make our Zumbathon a celebration of Chris’ life, not a somber time together,” wrote Barnett. “With the help of almost 20 high-energy, crazy Zumba instructors, I believe that we have made this possible.”