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Students bring back the magic of Dance Marathon

First in-person event in years, nets more than a half million dollars for charity

The 48th annual Northwestern Dance Marathon (NUDM) made a successful return to the tent while raising more than a half million dollars for two area non-profits.

Hundreds of students took a break from exam-time studies to dance from Friday evening until early Sunday morning. It was all a fun effort to raise money for Chicago Youth Programs, the primary beneficiary, and the Evanston Community Foundation. Even the high winds that forced an evacuation of the tent in the final hours of dancing did not spoil the mood.    

There is still time time to support NUDM this year and, while donations are still being accepted, the total raised so far is $580,778. Representatives from both organizations were presented with a giant ceremonial check on Sunday morning at the conclusion of 2022 Northwestern Dance Marathon after 30 hours of dancing.

“We are so happy that we finally got the opportunity to introduce three classes of dancers to the magic of NUDM,” said Cady DeCamara, executive co-chair of 2022 Dance Marathon.

“There are no greater feelings than those felt in Block 10 — the love we feel for our beneficiaries and for our community in those moments make every second of the 30 hours worth it. We couldn’t be prouder of everyone who fundraised with us this year, and the money we raised couldn’t go to better partners than Chicago Youth Programs and the Evanston Community Foundation.”

Help for organizations affected by COVID-19

Last spring, NUDM organizers selected Chicago Youth Programs (CYP) as its primary benefactor. CYP works to improve the life opportunities and health of youth in low-income neighborhoods, primarily on the South and West sides of Chicago through long-term academic, emotional and mental support.

Like many non-profit organizations, CYP faced funding challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic when corporations cut sponsorships or ended their support all together. Melody Brooks, the external engagement officer for CYP, said the money raised at Dance Marathon will help the organization grow and expand.

“Just being able to feel supported especially in a pandemic is an amazing thing,” Brooks said. “During the pandemic, a lot of our funding was taken away. Support like this from NUDM is helpful because it fills in the gaps that we lost during the pandemic. We are so excited to be the NUDM 22 primary beneficiary and even more excited to be in person.”

This is the 25th consecutive year that the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) has served as the secondary beneficiary of Dance Marathon. ECF invests in the community through grant making, leadership development and capacity building.

“On behalf of the board and staff of the Evanston Community Foundation, I am honored that for the past 25 years we have been the secondary beneficiary of NUDM’s fundraising efforts,” said ECF President and CEO Sol Anderson.

“Students arrive at Northwestern University and spend four years giving back to the city we love: Evanston. Nothing demonstrates that better than Dance Marathon. ECF will use the gift received from NUDM to amplify the work of nonprofit organizations providing resources for our most vulnerable neighbors. We appreciate NUDM’s commitment and the bold and beautiful way they lead — always with a smile on their faces.”

Bringing back the tradition

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro joined the students on Saturday afternoon. President Schapiro cited the necessary health protocols put in place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as one reason why an in-person DM could make a comeback this year.

“I’m so proud of the efforts of all the student volunteers for Dance Marathon,” said President Schapiro. 

“They’ve had to deal with a lot over the last two years, cancelling the in-person event and reimagining it in a virtual format. We’re fortunate to have all the COVID health and safety protocols in place so they can get back on the dance floor and bring this much anticipated tradition back to life, in person and under the famous tent. I believe their efforts, with the support from alumni and the Evanston and greater Chicago communities, will make a real difference for this year’s benefactors — Chicago Youth Programs and the Evanston Community Foundation.”

“We are thrilled to welcome back dancers in person for Northwestern University Dance Marathon,” said Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, vice president for student affairs.

“And while we’re still taking important safety precautions, we are proud our community can come together for this long-standing Northwestern philanthropic tradition. I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to NUDM’s student leaders, advisors Tracey Gibson-Jackson and Joseph Lattal, and our division staff and campus partners for helping to make this year’s in-person event a reality.”

Safety plan in action

In the final hours Dance Marathon, high winds forced an evacuation from the tent. But that didn’t deter the dancing. After a brief interruption, organizers found a safe location in Norris Student Center to safely complete the final hour and a half of Dance Marathon.

“We found ourselves back in the Louis Room for the first time since 2007 and continued to dance until we revealed our final total,” said Dan Birmingham, executive co-chair.

“Once again, the NUDM community proved to be resilient. After having the 30 hours cancelled two years ago and having a completely virtual DM last year, we returned to our home in the tent for 28.5 hours, until we had to evacuate. Our community keeps proving that nothing can stop the spirit and love that we have for our beneficiaries and for each other.”

Dance Marathon is one of the largest entirely student-run philanthropies in the nation. Since 1975, NUDM has raised more than $22 million for nearly three-dozen charities.

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