By Stephanie Stahl

SOUTHAMPTON, Pa. (CBS) — Hundreds of students have spent the day dancing at a high school in Bucks County. It’s a dance party with a serious cause, raising money for a charity created in honor of a beloved student.

Hands are up in the air for the party at Villa Joseph Marie High School. It’s their annual Hope-A-Thon, a dance marathon.

READ MORE: Philadelphia School District Students, Staff To Resume Masking As COVID Cases Continue To Rise In City

“For seven hours we are pledging. We are going to raise money for this cause, and for seven hours we’re going to dance for this cause,” student Ashley May said.

Proceeds go to the Think Hope Foundation, in honor of classmate Maria Middleton who passed away at the age of 18 from an inoperable brain tumor.

“It’s a little overwhelming to see the love and devotion this school and community continues to have for Maria,” Maria’s father Brian Middleton said.

Parents Susan and Brian Middleton say they created the Think Hope Foundation for their daughter who died in October 2020. The last words she wrote in her journal were “think hope.”

“She had a grateful heart and saw the good in each day even as she was stripped physically of the ability to do things she found gratitude for things she could still do,” Susan said.

READ MORE: West Philly Double Shooting Leaves 30-Year-Old Man Dead, Teen Hospitalized: Police

They say Maria was a superstar, gifted student, class president, popular, and giving.

“Maria just had the capacity to love in such a way that she pulled out the best of all of you. We don’t only miss Maria, but we miss who we are in her presence,” Brian said.

Friends say Maria still has a powerful presence that they carry forward with her legacy of unleashing hope in a world of despair.

“It’s a bunch of great girls with really good hearts who want to serve something greater than themselves,” student Sammy Froman said.

They’ll be dancing at the Hope-A-Thon until 7 p.m. The money raised will go to a number of charities that were important to Maria.

MORE NEWS: Police Investigating Series Of Gunpoint Robberies In Center City, West Philadelphia

“We have so much joy for what is happening here, this power of hope, and yet of course you know we miss her,” Susan said.

Stephanie Stahl