Northwestern's students are putting on their dancing shoes and getting ready for the school's 39th annual Northwestern University Dance Marathon), which begins at 7 p.m. Friday and doesn't end until 1 a.m. Sunday.
More than 1,000 dancers and 500 student volunteers are expected to attend this year's marathon, which will be held in a large tent at the Norris University Center.
Participating students start their fundraising efforts in October, according to Katie Prentiss, co-chair of the dance's public relations, and each dancer has to raise a minimum of $400. Last year's marathon brought in more than $1.1 million, and in the dance's 39-year history, Northwestern has raised more than $13 million total. The dance marathon is one of the largest entirely student-run philanthropies in the nation, Prentiss said.
The majority of the money raised this year will go to the Danny Did Foundation, a small Chicago-based charity that raises money and awareness for families with children with epilepsy. The foundation was founded in 2010 by Mike and Mariann Stanton after their 4-year-old son Danny died of a seizure in his sleep. Some of the money will also go to a secondary beneficiary, the Evanston Community Foundation.
Prentiss said that the best part of the marathon is getting the opportunity to dance with some of the children from the organizations that their fundraising efforts will benefit directly.
"You get to engage with them, dance with them--just make them have a wonderful time and a great memory, no matter what sorts of things are going on in their lives," Prentiss said. "And this is something that all of the students who are involved with the marathon will carry with them for the rest of their lives, as they enter the workforce, have an income, and then decide who they want to donate to later--they will remember the former beneficiaries of the marathon."
This year marks the fourth marathon for Prentiss, a 21-year-old journalism major and senior at Northwestern, which means she'll finally be joining the120-hour club along with other past participants who have danced 30 hours during the marathon for four years. Prentiss said this year NUDM has a record number of 120-hour club members.
"When freshmen get involved, they decide they want to be in the 120-hour club, and it's really become a Northwestern bucket list item," Prentiss said.
Prentiss said dancing for 30 hours straight is more of a mental struggle than a physical one--but the snack breaks and foot massages that will be offered throughout the weekend certainly won't hurt. She said listening to the speakers from the benefiting charities also helps her get pumped up and helps her keep dancing through the late-night hours.
"The best way to make it through is to listen to the speakers who come to talk from the beneficiaries about how you're going to help them, and once you listen to one of those speeches, it's impossible to want to give up," Prentiss said.
Visitors can drop by and see the marathon for $5 between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m. Friday and between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday. All visitor donations go directly to the Danny Did Foundation and the Evanston Community Foundation. For information, visit www.nudm.org .
Erin Vogel is a RedEye special contributor.
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