BTN LiveBIG: 40 years of Northwestern's Dance Marathon

What if you wanted to support a dance marathon but you can’t dance?  It turns out that there are plenty of ways to raise money without taking a turn on the dance floor, if you are part of Northwestern University’s Dance Marathon.

NU’s Dance Marathon (NUDM) co-chair, senior Josh Parish, is personally preparing to dance for a fourth time. In past years, he witnessed athletes come into the tent to pump-up dancers and help serve meals, but not dance. Some of the athletes’ support this year came before the dancing even begins.  Parish is excited for a greater student-athlete presence in 2014, on and off the dance floor.

The athletic department put some elbow grease on the effort this year. At a February 16 wrestling match, NU hosted an arm wrestling tournament. The male and female winners each received $300 for their NUDM organization.

Another area being expanded is the Student-Athlete Talent Show. For the fourth year (and second time as a Dance Marathon-fundraiser), Northwestern’s student-athletes will show off their off-the-field skills to the school. On the evening of March 3, the event will be open for a $3 entry fee benefiting NUDM. Wide receiver Austin Carr, who delivered a performance of “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon on the keyboard in 2013, will look to defend his title.

Senior golfer John Callahan, and vice president of Northwestern’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council, is taking the lead on the talent show. Callahan is hoping to take steps to raise the talent show’s hype this year.

“It’s really gotten bigger over the last few years. Last year’s was probably the biggest one yet,” he said. “It is entertaining to see the acts. They’re good. That reputation’s been building on itself and markets itself to some extent.”

Members of the recipient organization, Team Joseph, will be present at the talent show, including founder and CEO Marissa Penrod. The athletic department has already engaged with Team Joseph “heroes” in a variety of ways, such as inviting heroes to take pictures with head football coach Pat Fitzgerald before a November game.

“Dance Marathon is really important. I think it is not just the biggest philanthropic event on campus, but overall event on campus. You see how excited people get about it,” Callahan said.

“Getting involved in an event like this helps bridge the gap between the athletic community and the greater community on campus.”

And what if you can’t dedicate an entire weekend to dancing but you do want to dance? For the first time, student-athletes will have the option to dance for three hours if they raise at least $50 for Dance Marathon (other dancers need to raise $400 to dance for the full 30 hours). Student-athletes pursuing the opportunity have online StayClassy donation pages.

“This is a new initiative and a new way to get our student-athletes involved,” said Maureen Palchak, Northwestern community relations assistant athletic director.

“The involvement is fantastic and constantly serves as a source of excitement to our dancers,” Parish says.

Parish is excited to give NU athletes more of a hands-on experience. He expects the appearance of athletes on the dance floor to improve the experience for both athletes and non-athletes, and he does not think anyone will be star-struck.

“Everyone in the tent is the next person you should be ready to dance with, regardless of team, year, school, etc.,” Parish says.

Northwestern University Dance Marathon will begin at 7 p.m. CST on March 7 and end at 1 a.m. on March 9, and primarily benefits Team Joseph to fight Duchene Muscular Dystrophy. In 39 years, NUDM has raised over $14 million for more than 30 beneficiaries.

To donate, visit http://www.nudm.org/index.php.

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