Philanthropy paramount for ‘two peas in a pod’

Janette Neuwahl

Michelle Madigan and Katie Turnbaugh describe their friendship as similar to a dating relationship. They met, they clicked and they developed a close friendship that has survived – and even thrived – through their leadership roles in Northwestern’s two major philanthropies.

Madigan and Turnbaugh, who are best friends, share a love for helping people that goes beyond their dedication to Dance Marathon and Suitcase Party.

But that’s not the only similarity the two seniors share. Madigan and Turnbaugh look alike, belong to Kappa Delta sorority and started their community service involvement at NU by joining a Suitcase Party committee.

The two are often mistaken for each other in public because of their similar looks and involvements, they said.

“The opposites-attract saying doesn’t really hold true to our friendship,” said Madigan, co-chairwoman of DM2002.

Living in Allison Hall freshman and sophomore years, Turnbaugh, who is the co-chairwoman of Suitcase Party, and Madigan didn’t room together but constantly visited as their friendship grew through dorm government and Suitcase Party. Last year the two lived next door to one another in the Kappa Delta house and now they live in apartments two buildings apart.

Madigan said she considers Turnbaugh her seventh roommate.

“We could’ve lived together (this year) but with us being so busy, we’d never see each other anyways,” said Turnbaugh, a Weinberg senior.

Madigan said not living together has strengthened their friendship, preventing them from “driving each other nuts.” When Turnbaugh disagreed, Madigan comforted her friend by musing they’ll get an apartment together after college.

“I’ll get the rings,” Madigan said. “We’ll run off and live together.”

After meeting at Playfair during New Student Week, the women, who were active in service clubs in high school, joined Suitcase Party.

“From the beginning, we came in knowing we wanted to be involved,” Madigan said. “We never expected to be in the positions we are now, it just sort of happened.”

Madigan got involved with Dance Marathon during her sophomore year in addition to Suitcase Party. Madigan became more involved in DM after quitting Suitcase Party, realizing her Medill Teaching Media internship would conflict with Suitcase Party’s Spring Quarter event.

Although Turnbaugh stuck with Suitcase Party while Madigan joined DM, they have supported each other by organizing events to bridge the two groups like a co-sponsored bar night with Special Olympics.

“It’s perceived that Suitcase Party and DM are competitive organizations when we really don’t care at all,” Turnbaugh said. “We’re different organizations with similar goals and our history is different, so the structure is also. In the past, people have talked about Suitcase Party trying to be like DM, but we’re standing stronger on our own now.”

As far as the perceived rivalry is concerned, Madigan and Turnbaugh aren’t worried fund raising will interfere with the friendship.

“We both have the same goal of raising money for charity but we go about it in very different ways,” Turnbaugh said. “Suitcase Party recognizes we’re not DM and we don’t have 500 dancers with a stream of income. We don’t put such a high focus on financial goals that we feel there is a rivalry between us and DM.”

DM Co-chairman Dave Nacol met Turnbaugh through his countless hours spent working with Madigan and said he feels comfortable discussing ideas with Turnbaugh and Suitcase Party’s other co-chairman, Tyler Milfeld.

“The four of us have a lot in common work-wise, so we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well through their friendship,” said Nacol, a Weinberg senior. “It’s had a pretty positive impact on this year’s DM because Michelle knows Katie is there to support her.”

Lisa Sandstrom, a Weinberg junior, has known the two since her freshman year, when she met them through Allison Hall’s dorm government. Sandstrom, also a Kappa Delta member, saw the girls become active campus leaders.

“They are two peas in a pod by everything from their blonde hair to their positive leadership skills,” Sandstrom said, adding that the two have some differences. “Michelle is very outgoing whereas Katie is a more quiet leader by example but they’re both a lot of fun and both active leaders in Kappa Delta.”

Sandstrom said the girls always make a point to motivate their friends in other activities.

“If you are doing something they’ll be the first people in the front row cheering you on,” Sandstrom said. “They are really enthusiastic and it shows in whatever they do.”