Dance Marathon beneficiaries express gratitude for Northwestern’s contribution

Stephanie Yang

Northwestern students had the opportunity to meet and dance with B+ Heroes – children who have been recognized by The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation for courageously fighting cancer – on the dance floor and stage at NU’s Dance Marathon 2012.

The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation and the Evanston Community Foundation are this year’s DM beneficiaries. DM featured speakers from both organizations throughout the 30 hours, including B+ Heroes, their families and Evanston community members who have benefited from DM’s contributions. This year, DM raised a record-breaking total of $1,107,670, with $717,770.29 going to the B+ Foundation and $79,752.25 going to the ECF.

“Dance Marathon has had a huge impact in what happens in Evanston,” ECF executive director Sara Schastok said at a press conference on Saturday.

Schastok said this is her 12th year working with DM. Three-quarters of DM funding to the ECF will go into Evanston in grants. Schastok said the money going into Evanston has increased from $85,000 per year when the foundation first began to more than $200,000 now.

“Now that we have a staff, our passion is really helping Evanston thrive, and we can do that through more than money,” Schastok said.

She said ECF does this through sponsoring workshops, consulting for organizations, and technical assistance.

“The recession has really hit local nonprofits really hard, and they’ve looked to us for support,” Schastok said.

Schastok said despite any tensions between the city and NU, DM helps to create a connection between the University and the Evanston community.

“It’s really kind of like a year-round Dance Marathon in terms of people wanting to reach out and support other people in the community,” she said.

Joe McDonough, president of The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, said this weekend has exceeded his expectations wildly.

“As we bring our B+ Heroes, children with cancer, onstage, and to see the kids up there, thanking the students for what they’re doing and the students giving the thanks right back to the kids, there are no words for me to adequately describe my appreciation,” McDonough said.

Speaking before the final block, McDonough said he couldn’t wait to see the rest of DM, and he expected to experience sadness along with euphoria. Great relationships have developed between DM and his organization, he said.

“I’m not looking to be a beneficiary. I’m looking for the B+ Foundation to be a partner,” McDonough said.

B+ Heroes and their families are paired up with DM student groups prior to DM to spend time together. McDonough said through this, families obtain much more than a financial benefit from DM.

“These kids get put on the pedestal that they deserve, and they get treated like superstars,” he said.

McDonough said half the money contributed from DM will go to fund cutting-edge cancer research. He said this will be very valuable to children with cancer, because the federal government allocates less than 4 percent of the federal cancer research budget to children. The other half will go to the foundation’s family assistance program to help families pay for medicine, transportation to hospitals, and other financial needs.

“I knew this was a great school, and I knew the students were of the highest caliber,” McDonough said. “But I’m so impressed by the quality of their character. There’s just such a deep, compassionate selflessness among the student body.”

Various speakers who took the stage during DM thanked the students for their support.

“What you are doing here today is amazing, and UIC, Rush and Stroger (hospitals) have directly benefited from the B+ Foundation and all of you,” said Dr. Mary Lou Schmidt from the University of Illinois at Chicago. “From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”

Lisa Cech, mother of B+ Hero Jake Cech, said all of her children were having a blast at DM.

“Our kids finally get to enjoy something in life, and realize that there’s a lot out there other than being sick,” she said.

McDonough said he cannot wait to see the impact the NU students make.

“There’s nothing like looking up there (onstage) and saying, ‘That’s why we do what we do,'” McDonough said.

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