Sarah Ginn, a 6th grader at Hanover Middle School, takes a look at the face painting she did on 7th grader Madison Reck on Friday night during the  For
Sarah Ginn, a 6th grader at Hanover Middle School, takes a look at the face painting she did on 7th grader Madison Reck on Friday night during the For Emma Dance-A-Thon. (THE EVENING SUN SHANE DUNLAP)

The Hanover Middle School students dancing in the auditorium during Friday night's "For Emma Dance-A-Thon" never met Emma Martinez.

But they know her name. Many wrote her name on their foreheads in bright pink face paint. The students know the annual dance-a-thon is for Martinez and raises money for a scholarship in her name.

Martinez, a 2000 Hanover High School graduate, was killed in a car accident in 2003 in Mercer County, N.J. The 21-year-old was in her senior year at St. John's University in Queens, studying communication arts.

Although students at the middle school today may not have known Martinez, the dance-a-thon leaves a legacy, Martinez's mother, Donna Martinez, said. The event, which started in 2006, has become a middle school tradition that students look forward to each year.

All the proceeds go toward the scholarship, which is given to a high school senior who exemplifies the same qualities as Martinez and excels in academics, sports and music.

A few years before the dance-a-thon began, Hanover High School held "An Evening for Emma," a concert to help raise money for the first scholarship. The concert was first held in 2004, just a few months after her death.

A second concert will be held this year, on Feb. 16, to mark the tenth anniversary of Martinez's death, her mother said. If the concert raises enough additional funds, Martinez's mother hopes to give two scholarships this year.

About 90 students attended the dance Friday night, raising at least $15 each, said teacher Deb Smith.

Friday's dance was the first for Madelyn Hutton, 11, and Bethany Romero, 10. The girls decided to attend after hearing about all the fun - dancing, face painting, movies, basketball and volleyball with their peers.

And the event is for a good cause, said Hutton, who had "Emma" painted on her forehead in pink.

Martinez would have loved to come to the event, her sister Leah Martinez said, because it incorporates all the stuff she loved to do. For seven years, the event has stayed the same, but every year the students look forward to it, she said.

Alexa Merrill, 14, and McKenzie Cleary, 13, have attended the dance for four years and the tradition will be missed when they go to the high school next year. Over the years, they've collected four different "For Emma" T-shirts and heard the stories about Martinez - a good student, athlete and friend.

"She was a good person, from what I hear," Cleary said.

Each year, pictures of Martinez, along with her awards, are spread across a table in the entryway of the middle school. Among the pictures with friends and family are individual laminated pictures for students to take to remember Martinez.

"Her smile lit up a room," her mother said.

Photos of Emma Martinez and memorial items line a table in the lobby of Hanover Middle School on Friday night during the  For Emma Dance-A-Thon.
Photos of Emma Martinez and memorial items line a table in the lobby of Hanover Middle School on Friday night during the For Emma Dance-A-Thon. (THE EVENING SUN SHANE DUNLAP)

Donations can be sent to Troy Wentz, the business manager of the Hanover Public School District.

If you go

What: "An Evening for Emma Martinez" Concert

When: Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.

Where: Hanover High School, 403 Moul Avenue, Hanover