For 30 hours, I was one of a thousand.
We danced. We laughed. We winced in pain. We took stretching breaks. We changed our socks. We ate energy bars. We cried.
This past weekend, I was among a group of 750 dancers and hundreds of other committee members for Northwestern University’s Dance Marathon. We worked toward two goals: to raise money for pediatric cancer and to make it 30 hours without collapsing.
Members of the Tzedek-Hillel DM Team (slogan: “More than the Hora”) during the first block of Dance Marathon. Back row (from left): Merrie, Joe, Lilly, Scott, Corinne, Ian. Front row: Abraham, Lia.
In many ways, Dance Marathon is an individual event. Besides raising at least $400 each, every dancer had to prepare for the marathon physically in the week prior to the event by eating lots of carbs, drinking water, exercising and getting enough sleep. But the second the marathon began, we were no longer individuals.
Dancer Relations committee members cheered us on and offered us massages. The Food Committee gave us smoothies, pizza, fruit and even challah during Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” (one of the highlights of the weekend) and made sure we were well-nourished. The emcees and co-chairs entertained us, and representatives from Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the Evanston Community Foundation (the two DM beneficiaries) encouraged us to keep dancing.
Food Committee members serve grapes and challah during Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” song in the first block.
When my eyes began to close, Max woke me up. When I needed someone to lean on, Abraham kept me from falling over. Lilly and Andrea K., the DM veterans, offered helpful advice. Stefani, my fundraising partner, was one of the group’s main cheerleaders. Laura was my go-to person when I needed a hug. Scott reminded me to smile. And when the event was all over, Brian was there to carry my bag and walk me home.
At a little after 1 a.m., the DM co-chairs announced the total amount of money raised. More than 1,000 people in white t-shirts in a big white tent huddled in anticipation of this number—the reason we had been dancing nonstop for a full weekend. Last year’s number to beat was more than $708,711.
And there it was. $933,855.
We did it. Together, we had raised a seemingly insurmountable sum of money. As we presented checks to the beneficiaries, their representatives were more floored by the amount than we were. For Bear Necessities, our check of $593,739 is the biggest donation they have ever received. Thinking about how many children with cancer this donation would allow to lead semi-normal lives, everyone in the room found their eyes tearing up.
The sense of unity in that tent touched each one of us.
The work, the pain, the joy we felt while dancing for so long served as a symbol of the work, pain and joy we put into fundraising. One person alone could never dance for 30 hours, but with 1,000 other NU students, it’s easier. One person alone can maybe raise $400, but when you combine that one person with 1,000 others, you can reach $933,855. And that is when you make the biggest difference.
As the signs decorating the walls of the room read, “Live. Give. Love.”
I’m so glad I was a part of it.
More pictures and videos from DM:
Foreground (from left): Max, Mike, Rachel, Devin, Lilly. Either Mike and Devin are having emotional reactions to this song, or they’re napping while standing up.
Joe (left) and Belinda dance to the “YMCA.”
Scott (from left), Joe, Lilly, Stefani, Laura, Rachel and Lia enjoy their last block of DM together.
Dancing to “Celebration.”
Dancing to “Don’t Stop Believing.”
Dancing to “Since You’ve Been Gone” in the last block.