A record 40 families supported by Dance Marathon’s primary beneficiary Starlight Children’s Foundation Midwest have committed to the student-run philanthropy’s Hero Program this year — about four times the program’s participation last year.
The Hero Program allows DM participants to connect with the beneficiary families, DM spokeswoman Arielle Miller said. Families in the Hero Program are those connected to this year’s beneficiary, the Starlight Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit seeking to improve the lives of chronically ill children.
Hero Program families participate with students during DM events throughout the year, including holiday parties and the philanthropy’s Top Chef fundraising competition. They also attend part of the 30-hour event in March, which marks the end of the fundraising period.
“They really are the faces of DM,” said Miller, a Medill junior. “It’s huge motivation during those hours for dancers to be reminded why we’re doing this. It’s what Dance Marathon is all about.”
Miller attributed this year’s high number of Hero Program families to the Starlight Children’s Foundation’s broad reach.
“One in four children are affected with critical or chronic illness,” Miller said. “Unfortunately it touches everyone’s life. Everyone knows someone who is affected by one of these diseases.”
DM hopes to get even more families involved in the Hero Program and more students involved in the philanthropy, Miller said.
Due to the high number of families participating, DM has extended its committee application deadline to Tuesday at midnight. The DM committees are finding more ways to engage with the Hero Program families, Miller said.
Earlier this month, several Hero Program families came to an NU football game, and DM participants spent time getting to know the families.
“It speaks to the compassion and empathy within the Northwestern community,” Miller said. “This year is just an awesome opportunity for even more people to engage.”
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