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Teen’s tragedy unites several communities

By Staff | May 15, 2012

Shannon Bitler

MONTGOMERY-A Good Friday automobile accident interrupted the life of Shannon Bitler, a Montgomery High School senior. Now, more than a month later, she continues to recover from brain injuries at Geisinger Medical Center.

As often happens during times of tragedy, people find ways to help. These people are not only from Shannon’s hometown area, but are widespread and include longtime fellow students at D & K Dance Studio in Hughesville.

Martha Jean Hodge is one of those students who has known Shannon since they began dance class together at age three. Remembering the vivacious red head, Hodge recalls examples of Shannon’s personality. “While doing grueling exercises like push-ups or crunches, Shannon would make little comments like ‘whee.’ That made us laugh and cheered us on. Shannon was always happy and inspired fellow dancers.” Hodge said that Dwayne, the instructor, often tells students to emulate Shannon as, “Her expressive eyes tell the story.”

It was Hodge who let everyone know that being associated with the studio put Shannon in touch with students from a wide area including Williamsport and Sullivan County. Last Saturday evening, a benefit concert and bake sale were held in Williamsport.

When the tragedy first occurred, fellow dancers felt a need for immediate action. “Several of us visited Shannon from the very beginning. Her parents, Ira and Karen are amazingly strong,” Hodge said. Families of the dancers donated gas cards to aid with the family’s travel expenses.

“If we’ve learned anything from this, it is to be more cautious. We know accidents happen to other people but we never think it will ever happen to us,” Hodge said. The dancing partner also said many memories have been revisited due to Shannon’s photos posted on facebook.

Hodge and other dancers are looking forward to volunteering at an upcoming benefit spaghetti supper on Sunday, May 20 from noon until six p.m. at the Allenwood Social Hall. “We will be manning the early shift,” she said. The gathering will also feature a silent auction. Additional supporters of the event will be parishoners from Shannon’s church, St. John Lutheran (Brick) Church, Montgomery High School students and community volunteers.

Monetary donations can also be made to the Shannon Bitler Fund at any branch of Muncy Bank and Trust.