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44th annual Dance Marathon raises more than $1 million ‘to help kids be kids’

Northwestern students raise $1,175,709 for Cradles to Crayons and Evanston Community Foundation

EVANSTON - Exhausted and emotional after 30 hours of dancing, more than 1,000 undergraduate students who had just completed the final hour of the 44th annual Dance Marathon stood in suspense as members of the executive committee announced the total funds raised through their collective efforts.

Holding a large board, Northwestern University Dance Marathon’s (NUDM) finance committee revealed that the student philanthropists had successfully raised $1,175,709 in cash and in-kind donations for Cradles to Crayons that will provide kids with the essentials they need, free of charge, so they can thrive at home, school and play.

The year-long effort -- which required students to solicit pledges and sponsors, staff a phone bank, go “canning” on street corners, plan an online auction and organize a 5K and 10K run -- concluded this weekend with the high-energy test of endurance and generosity that is Dance Marathon.

NUDM is one of the largest student-run philanthropies in the nation. Its storied traditions -- from the Saturday morning sunrise lap to learning choreography for the official “30-hour dance” to saluting members of the 120-hour club with a presentation of t-shirts -- have won Dance Marathon the loyalty of legions of students and alumni for more than four decades.

“The work Cradles to Crayons does every day continues to inspire us, however, we’re equally inspired by what we’re seen over these past few months. We’ve witnessed what can be accomplished when 22 board members, 500 committee members, over 1,000 students and many more alumni, administrators and faculty come together to make a difference,” said Dance Marathon 2018 Co-Chair Daniel Nussbaum.

“Cradles to Crayons’ mission, inspired by a belief that “quality = dignity,” imagines a Chicago where no kid struggles to achieve their dreams. We are spreading a message of equality -- that every child, regardless of their background, deserves a fair shot.”

During the 30-hour event, periodic visits from community leaders, celebrity video greetings and donated food and treats energized and buoyed the dancers’ spirits. Highlights included a pep talk from Northwestern President Morton Shapiro, a Saturday morning sunrise run around the tent and celebrity video greetings from Late Show host Stephen Colbert with Cookie Monster, former Vice President Joe Biden and former Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood.

Cradles to Crayons will receive 90 percent of the net proceeds and Evanston Community Foundation will receive 10 percent.

NUDM’s fundraising will help Cradles to Crayons benefit local children by expanding the nonprofit’s presence in the Chicagoland area. With the help of NUDM’s secondary beneficiary, the Evanston Community Foundation, Cradles to Crayons will expand into Evanston, leaving lasting impact in Northwestern’s backyard. NUDM also hopes to increase Cradles to Crayons’ capacity to fulfill its community requests, doubling the number of children they can serve.

In addition to fundraising, NUDM partnered with Cradles to Crayons to increase service and awareness efforts. Students and members of ECF visited the Cradles to Crayons’ Giving Factory where they sorted essential items into personalized “KidPacks” for families in need. In addition, students participated in ECF service events and volunteered at multiple locations throughout the Evanston community.

“NUDM 2018 is about community. A community of students, a community between Northwestern University and Evanston, and a community built with Cradles to Crayons over the past year. This NUDM was about creating an experience where people from all corners of campus can put their own busy lives to the side for one weekend to come together for one cause that is greater than any one individual,” said the other Dance Marathon 2018 Co-Chair Jamie Newman.

"Cradles to Crayons not only provides children with essential everyday items, but also shows thousands of children that there is a community that believes in them, and that they have our support so that they can be confident and dream big.”

About Northwestern Dance Marathon

The 44th annual NUDM began at 7 p.m. Friday, March 9 and concluded at 1 a.m. Sunday, March 11 at Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus, celebrating the conclusion of a yearlong student-run philanthropic effort. Since 1975, NUDM has raised more than $19 million for more than 30 different charities.

The 2018 live webcast was viewed by nearly 2,300 viewers representing 39 countries around the globe.

About Cradles to Crayons

Cradles to Crayons launched in 2002 and has operations in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. The nonprofit provides children from birth through age 12 living in homeless or low-income situations with the essential items they need to thrive -- at home, at school and at play. Cradles to Crayons mobilizes communities of plenty on behalf of communities of need, recycling and reusing high-quality children’s goods and engaging thousands of youth and adults in tangible service activities each year that benefit local children.  

About Evanston Community Foundation

The Evanston Community Foundation is focused on helping Evanston thrive now and forever as a vibrant, inclusive and just community. It connects resources and knowledge with the work of local organizations for the common good by investing in the community through grant making, leadership development and capacity building. 

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