SOURCE: DANCE MARATHON
Sprinting down the steps of Norris University Center, dancers stormed into the tent for the first of 10 three-hour blocks in this year’s Dance Marathon.
The event kicked off with a burst of excitement as dancers listened to speeches from the DM executive co-chairs and representatives from the two beneficiaries: Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit that provides weekend meals for food insecure elementary school students, and Evanston Community Foundation.
Though dancers will not sport their hour club T-shirts until Block 9, some Dance Marathon veterans enjoyed a unique experience midway through Block 2.
For the first time, each hour club has specific perks, said DM’s community engagement co-chair Marissa Mizroch, a Medill junior and former Daily staffer. This year, members of the 60 hour club left the tent about an hour into Block 2 to pack 500 extra bags of food for Blessings in a Backpack. These bags are in addition to the 12,548 backpacks packed before DM.
Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” may have brought the tent to its feet toward the beginning of Block 3, but the three hours ended on a calmer note with Dance Marathon’s first ever light show and spoken word performance.
With around 30 minutes to go in DM’s first lockdown block, the emcees made a rare announcement: Dancers were allowed to sit down. A calming mixture of peaceful music and moving lights soon filled the tent, and as dancers relaxed and stretched their legs, Communication sophomore Pauline Moll took the stage.
Dancers got their first exposure to the outdoors during Block 4 after 12 hours inside the tent.
Near the end of the block, dancers convened to run a lap around Norris University Center, getting a breath of fresh air before emerging back inside to stretch before Block 5, the end of first half of Dance Marathon.
The finance committee announced a new weekend-of fundraising initiative during Block 5 to encourage dancers to keep reaching out and soliciting additional donations.
In contrast to past years when the finance committee took the stage of Dance Marathon at the end of each block, this year’s 30-hour event has not included consistent fundraising total updates. However, during Block 5, finance committee co-chairs Alicia Kranjc, a McCormick senior, and Kayla Brackett, a Weinberg senior, announced the $10,000 in 10 hours campaign.
As dancers began their 15th hour in the tent, students, families and community members gathered in front of Norris University Center for a 5K and 10K run.
“We raised an unprecedented amount from (the race),” said Weinberg senior Erica Grubbs, a member of DM’s special events committee.
Compared to previous years in which runners were required to pay a registration fee of $20, this year’s runners were able to fundraise prior to the race in addition to an increased registration fee of $25, said DM’s special events co-chair Connor Smith, a Weinberg senior.
Dancers started Block 7 with lunch, and despite heavy legs and fatigue, participants enjoyed numerous guest appearances that kept energy high throughout the block.
As dancers returned to the tent for the start of the block, they picked up food and enjoyed complimentary cookies made by Felix Castillo, an 11-year-old boy who founded Felix’s Famous Cookies.
Block 7 may have been 1980s themed, but dancers also enjoyed a hefty dose of nostalgia during Block 8, when last year’s primary beneficiary, Starlight Children’s Foundation, took center stage.
Cortney Szlemp, Starlight’s DM 2015 liaison, updated dancers on the impact Dance Marathon has had on her organization. Last spring, DM announced the 2015 event raised enough funds for 11 Starlight Sites, surpassing the organization’s initial goal of 10. Szlemp described the therapeutic rooms that include features like lego walls, padded play areas and gaming systems — all the trimmings for a child to “just be a kid.”
During Block 9, University President Morton Schapiro told dancers he will be hosting a dinner at his house for Dance Marathon participants and joked that dancers should make sure to shower before the dinner.
“Nothing makes me more prideful, nothing makes me more inspired than being in a room with all of you,” Schapiro said.
Dance Marathon 2016 raised $1,201,216, reaching a total of more than $1 million for the sixth consecutive year.
The finance committee announced early Sunday morning the primary beneficiary, Blessings in a Backpack, received $920,057. The money will go toward feeding food-insecure students over the weekend who rely on free or reduced meals during the school week.
This year, DM participants are dancing for 30 hours to raise money for Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit that provides weekend meals for food insecure elementary school students. Funds will also go to the Evanston Community Foundation, making this the 19th year ECF has been the secondary beneficiary.
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