EVANSTON, Ill.--- A record-breaking 600 dancers will shake it the weekend of March 3-5 at Northwestern University’s 32nd annual Dance Marathon. All events will be held in the Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston campus.
The majority of dancers will be students, but some faculty and 13 staff members will be involved as well. Participation is higher than ever before with about 1,000 Northwestern students directly involved in Dance Marathon, making it one of the largest student-run philanthropies in the world.
The elimination of pediatric AIDS is the focus of this year’s 30-hour marathon. Funds raised will go to the Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative (PACPI), a consortium of HIV obstetric and pediatric care providers, public health experts and institutions committed to preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to their infants and, therefore, minimize deaths from HIV/AIDS. By timely treatment with antiretroviral medication to an HIV-positive pregnant woman, her child’s risk of contracting the disease decreases dramatically.
“We’re very excited about our beneficiaries and the opportunity we have to help PACPI,” said student Cecilia Byrne, executive co-chair for Dance Marathon. “We are striving to donate more to Pediatric AIDS than the state of Illinois, which currently gives $325,000.”
As the secondary beneficiary, Evanston Community Foundation will receive 10 percent of the proceeds, up from 7.5 percent last year. ECF is an umbrella organization that issues grants to Evanston community projects and has benefited from DM since 1998.
Three hundred couples will begin dancing at 7 p.m. Friday, March 3 and continue until 1 a.m. Sunday, March 5. Dancers take 10-minute breaks every three hours to change costumes for the different three-hour block themes. Highlights will include celebrity get-ups for “Fabulous Life Of” and the summer wear of “Beach Party.” Celebrity messages and TV monitors around the room with encouragement from dancers’ friends will help keep the energy high.
Visitors to Dance Marathon can check up on dancers in the Louis Room or take part in the many events in Norris during the weekend. New events for this year include a magic show by Northwestern student Brett Schneider, Ping Pong tournament, Student Film Festival and an extension of the popular weekly trivia, All Ages Trivia. The annual Kids Fair will also take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 4 with face painting and games.
Dance Marathon raised over $625,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in 2005 and has donated over $6 million to local charities over the past 32 years.
Dancers have been raising funds and taking part in volunteering activities related to the beneficiaries throughout this year -- from World AIDS Day speakers to visits to HIV clinics around the Chicago area. This was the third year of a three-hour mandatory volunteer requirement for all dancers. By March 3, Dance Marathon will have logged 1,800 hours of volunteering in the Chicago area.
The majority of the $750 that couples must raise comes from soliciting donations from family and friends or “canning” for cash. The top fundraising couple will receive a free trip to Europe, courtesy of STA Travel. Video iPods are the prize for the second-place couple. Several special events have added to the total this year, including the first Lincoln School Jamboree at the Lincoln Elementary School in Evanston, a carnival event with performances by Northwestern students groups. Weekly trivia tournaments, a Battle of the Bands and a date auction are just a few of the other fundraising events.
More than 400 students on 12 committees began preparing for Dance Marathon last fall by establishing corporate sponsorships, advertising on campus and publicizing the event through the media. This year’s main corporate sponsors are STA Travel, Tribune Company, Kaplan, Solaris Tanning Salon, Apple, Miller and Armani Exchange. Money is also being raised through merchandise sold the weekend of Dance Marathon, including AIDS ribbon pins, T-shirts, sweatbands, bottle opener key-chains and the official Dance Marathon magazine, The Emcee.
(Alexis Crawford is a senior in the Medill School of Journalism.)