Willard Elementary gets its own Dance Marathon

Eunice Lee

Walking out of the first Dance Marathon ’08 all-dancer meeting last fall, 7-year-old pediatric cancer survivor Ainsley Burns-Jacobson had an idea.

“Mommy, I want to have a dance marathon for Bear Necessities too,” she told her mother. “Go plan it.”

Inspired by Ainsley, Willard Elementary School added a twist to its annual school-wide dance by raising money for Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

This year’s ’50s-themed event was called Sock Hop, to “sock out” pediatric cancer. It was held on Friday to celebrate the end of Tune Out TV Week.

“I wanted to raise money for Bear Necessities like the big kids,” Ainsley said. “I hope everybody is going to be talking about it during the whole weekend.”

Participants were charged $1 at the door, and a box was set out for additional donations.

Betsi Burns, NU’s Director of Student Development in the department of athletics and Ainsley’s mother, said she hoped the event would raise awareness of pediatric cancer.

“All the DM dancers and all the committees inspired us to bring Northwestern and the Evanston community together through our little piece of Willard,” Burns said.

Ainsley’s goal for the night was to raise $500, the cost of one small miracle through Bear Necessities’ small miracle program. For her achievement, she received a trip to the American Girl store.

“I would like to raise more than that or really much (more) to get a small miracle for another little boy or girl,” Ainsley said.

About an hour and a half into the event, the event had already raised $355 from admission tickets. The donation box and funds from the faculty raffle were uncounted.

Caroline Shields, director of programs and services for Bear Necessities, said she was “touched and inspired” by the event.

Several NU athletes, including members of the football team and the cross-country team, volunteered at the event.

NU groups, including NU’s Ladycats and BLAST, performed between blocks of dancing. Purple Haze performed an *NSYNC medley on stage, and was followed by the Willard fifth-grade choir.

Willard PTA President Jean Fies said that the NU students lent structure to a usually hectic event.

“The Northwestern students are keeping them organized and focused,” she said. “To have the kids sit there quietly watching them and enraptured is really exciting.”

Members of the DM ’08 Executive Board said they were excited to support Ainsley’s event.

“Ainsley’s going through her fourth round of chemo right now and she still wants to help other kids (through) Bear Necessities,” DM Publicity and Community Relations chairwoman and former Daily staffer Elizabeth Campbell said. “It shows how much the Northwestern community cares about its extended NU family.”

Weinberg senior Brittany Ladd, a dancer in DM 2008 and the group’s university relations chairwoman, called the Sock Hop a testament to the impact volunteering has had at NU.

“Ainsley has come to mean a lot to every single member of the DM exec board,” Ladd said.

[email protected]