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40th Dance Marathon Raises Record $1.3 Million

Funds support Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Evanston Community Foundation

EVANSTON, Ill. --- It was another historic year for Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM). Not only did NUDM celebrate its 40th anniversary, the annual student-run event raised a record-breaking $1,385,273 in cash and in-kind donations during the March 7-9 weekend. 

The two NUDM beneficiaries are a Michigan-based organization that battles a devastating muscular disease and a local foundation that strengthens Evanston through grant-making and community engagement.

Northwestern’s largest student philanthropy also broke the $1 million mark for the fourth consecutive year. For the first time “cash” fundraising exceeded $1 million. Similarly, the $210,994 increase in cash fundraising from last year is the largest fundraising increase in NUDM history.

This year even President Barack Obama joined the fun with his surprise video message of encouragement to the students that kicked off the evening.

“Your hard work has made this one of the biggest student-run philanthropies in America, Chicago is proud of you and I’m proud of you. And I know Michelle would be proud of you, too,” President Obama said in the video.

“Thank you for making a difference to the life of your community and your country,” he went on to say. “And now, after months of effort, here’s the fun part. Get dancing, good luck, and Go Cats!”  To view President Obama’s video, visit, "President Obama Supports Northwestern University Dance Marathon Students."  

The 2014 fundraiser also included music, dance and comedy performances by student organizations, pep talks by football coach Pat Fitzgerald and University President Morton Schapiro, and a number of heartfelt speeches from representatives of families directly affected by the funds raised.

Thanks to more than 1,000 Northwestern undergraduate students who danced for 30 hours, 300-plus committee members, events throughout the year, and thousands of generous local and national donors, including alumni who helped support the 2014 fundraiser, Dance Marathon executive co-chairs Josh Parish and Anna Radoff were able to present a check for $931,289.21 to Team Joseph founder Marissa Penrod. The non-profit organization funds cutting-edge research to find a treatment or cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a fatal degenerative genetic muscle disease affecting 1 in 3,500 boys. The life expectancy for those afflicted is in the early 20s.

The Evanston Community Foundation (ECF), NUDM’s secondary beneficiary for the 17th consecutive year, received a check for $103,476.58 -- 10 percent of this year’s net proceeds.

The foundation builds, connects and distributes resources and knowledge for the common good through local organizations.

The March 7 to 9 weekend marathon at Norris University Center marked the culmination of a yearlong philanthropic effort supporting Team Joseph and the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF), NUDM 2014’s primary and secondary beneficiaries, respectively.


In its 40 years, Northwestern University Dance Marathon -- one of the largest student-run philanthropies in the world -- has raised more than $15 million for more than 30 different charities.


Team Joseph was founded in 2008 by Marissa Penrod, who refused to let her son Joseph be defined by his diagnosis of Duchenne at the age of 5. Joseph is now 11. The organization has evolved into the strong movement it is today with the support of family members, friends and a network of volunteers.  

Team Joseph has been actively partnered with NUDM throughout the year. Boys with Duchenne and their families visited Northwestern for a holiday party, Valentine’s party and cheered the Northwestern Wildcat football team from the Ryan Field sidelines. Visit Team Joseph for more information. 


The Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) is NUDM’s secondary beneficiary for the 17th consecutive year. NUDM has given ECF $1,134,739 since 1998, making NUDM one of the foundation’s top four contributors. Through its 17-year partnership, the Evanston Community Foundation and NUDM have awarded 298 grants to 128 organizations.

“Team Joseph inspired Northwestern students to new heights and the results prove that,” said Sara L. Schastok, president and CEO of ECF. “All of us at ECF are really grateful to every Northwestern University Dance Marathon dancer and supporter for the big opportunity you’re giving us to do more for the community we all call home.” For more information on the foundation, visit the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) online. 


To celebrate 40 years, NUDM has worked hard to reconnect with alumni and Northwestern community members. Alumni have been providing written and multimedia accounts of their NUDM experiences to help raise funds and motivate dancers. Celebrity alumni including Seth Meyers, “Suits’” Meghan Markle, and ESPN’s Mike Wilbon and J.A. Adande submitted videos that aired during the marathon. Other celebrity messages from Adam Sandler, Katie Couric, “The Today Show” and an in-character cast of “Scandal” also energized dancers.

Northwestern alumni clubs in London, Philadelphia, Seattle, Washington, D.C., New York and Memphis hosted fundraising events this year and clubs in Chicago, San Francisco and Portland actively engaged their members. NUDM hosted an anniversary gala with alumni in downtown Chicago, highlighted by speeches from the NUDM founders.

Special fundraising events for NUDM 2014 included a series of trivia nights, a cook-off event at Norris Center, “canning” for cash donations on Evanston area streets and a student letter writing campaign soliciting funds. Additionally, Northwestern athletics hosted fundraising events at basketball, tennis, wrestling and swimming competitions and organized a talent show benefiting NUDM.


Each year, the NUDM committee selects a primary and secondary beneficiary to receive proceeds (minus expenses and in-kind gifts) collected after months of fundraising, Fundraising concludes in early March after 30 hours of dancing takes place on the Evanston campus at Norris University Center.


Dancers raise a minimum of $400, and more than 99 percent of dancers complete the entire 30 hours of dancing. The marathon is split into 10 three-hour “blocks,” each of which has a different theme that sets the tone for the music, set and dancer wardrobes. More than 250 Northwestern non-dancing students attend the event for all 30 hours as staff focused on production, security, dancer relations, accounting and public relations.

NUDM 2013

Last year, NUDM broke records by raising $1.2 million in cash and in-kind donations -- the highest amount in the organization’s 39-year history. It supported the Danny Did Foundation, which combats Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) and the Evanston Community Foundation.

Thanks to Northwestern students and thousands of generous local, national and international donors, last year’s Dance Marathon executive co-chairs were able to present a check for $741,394.10 to the Danny Did Foundation. Another check for $82,377.12 -- 10 percent of the net proceeds -- went to the Evanston Community Foundation.

Tom Stanton, the executive director of the Danny Did Foundation, returned to Dance Marathon this year to share the progress of his organization and the legacy made possible by NUDM 2013. 

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