DM breaks $1 million for first time, raises record $1,019,130

Katherine Driessen

Dance Marathon broke the $1-million mark for the first time in its 37-year history, raising a record $1,019,130, including in-kind donations, the DM finance committee announced at the end of the 30-hour event 1 a.m. March 8.

The Children’s Heart Foundation, DM’s primary beneficiary, received $632,689, while the Evanston Community Foundation received $70,298. The remaining $316,143 represent in-kind donations, which are supplies such as food donated to DM.

A record 900-plus students danced in a tent on the lawn of Norris University Center from Friday night to early Saturday morning, DM public relations co-chairwoman Erin Gray said. Nearly 1,200 students registered to dance and raise funds in the fall.

“We are really happy with the number of dancers,” Gray said. “That’s what makes this year so special.”

Megan Van Pelt, national president of The Children’s Heart Foundation, which helps fund research on congenital defects in children, expressed her gratitude.

“We’re absolutely blown away,” Van Pelt said. “Thank you. I don’t know if everyone realizes the impact it will have for decades to come.”

When University President Morton Schapiro visited DM March 7, he said he appreciated the positive press after the media firestorm that an optional, after-class sex toy demonstration in Prof. John Michael Bailey’s Human Sexuality class last week prompted.

“This is what the media should see,” Schapiro said. “This is the Northwestern that makes us proud.”

The fundraising may have gone smoothly, but the actual 30-hour event was not without incident. The fourth block was delayed March 7 at 4 a.m. as strong winds forced DM members to assess the security of the tent. The gusty conditions did not quiet down, causing a more prolonged two-hour delay before block seven that afternoon.

Students waited – or slept – as DM members called professionals to assess whether or not the tent was safe for dancers due to the inclement weather, said Julie Sher, executive co-chairwoman of DM.

“No one got hurt, no one was ever in any danger,” Sher said. “There were no mistakes made. Nothing went wrong.”

Members of the press were also asked to hand over their press passes to DM representatives and remain on the third floor of Norris.

Gray said DM wanted to keep dancers from panicking.

“The dancers were understandably worried, and we were trying to keep them calm and happy,” Gray said. “Hopefully we get them back in the tent and they realize nothing is wrong and we get some of our incredible ambassadors in the tent and they realize very quickly why they’re dancing.”

The dancers returned to the tent at approximately 3 p.m., and the seventh block was shortened to ensure the event finished on time, Gray said.

Rick Thomas, the executive director of Norris, said poor weather conditions are “always a risk” with the tent, which was rated for “reasonable winds.”

He added that Facilities Management removed two rows of lights and speakers that were swaying in the wind, which minimized the swaying of the tent.

Some dancers said they were concerned about the safety of the event.

“I’m not loving all the wires and stuff just because if something falls, it could be bad, a.k.a. we could die,” said Claire Nalven, a Bienen and Weinberg freshman. “If they think it’s safe then it’s fine, but I don’t think it’s safe and it’s not a great feeling.”

But the rest of the evening ran smoothly. When the total was announced during the final block early March 8, dancers and The Children’s Heart Foundation representatives alike erupted into applause and, for a few, tears.

DM marked an especially emotional moment for The Children’s Heart Foundation co-founder Betsy Peterson, whose son died due to a congenital heart defect.

The Children’s Heart Foundation paired with DM in 1999, but Peterson said this year exceeded all her expectations.

“I smiled for the first time (today) in I don’t even know how long,” Peterson said. “I had forgotten how to smile. You guys did that for me.”

Maria LaMagna and Brian Rosenthal contributed reporting to this story.

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