Approaching the 120-hour mark, seniors reflect on four years in the tent

Cat Zakrzewski, In Focus Editor

Donning purple 120-hour club shirts, seniors who have participated in Dance Marathon for all of their four years at Northwestern ran into the tent for the final two blocks.

The moment marked the bittersweet culmination of dancing in every DM since the charity benefitted the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation for childhood cancer in 2012. Fittingly about 120 members of the Class of 2015 reached the milestone this year.

Many members of the 120-hour club said it was a goal they have been striving toward since at least freshman or sophomore year and felt a sense of accomplishment as they danced in the tent for their final time. Some said they realized how soon they would be graduating as they put on an hour club T-shirt for the last time.

As they danced, some were thinking about the legacy they would leave. For the second year in a row, Weinberg senior Nora Meyers said she’s in charge of the Northwestern University Marching Band team.

“It’s amazing to see my team step up and push through,” she said. “Now I know they’ll be capable of doing that after I leave next year.”

As the seniors ate their dinners, they took turns taping videos about their wishes for future Dance Marathons. Although wishes ranged from the heartfelt to more lighthearted requests such as continuing to play “Sandstorm” during Block 8, many dancers had the same hope — that more people would participate in DM and help it grow in the future.

For many seniors, a highlight of the event came in Block 4 when all of the dancers ran around the tent. Seniors said DM hadn’t done the run since they were freshmen, and it brought the event full circle.

The seniors were excited and nostalgic as they approached the homestretch, but for some it seemed they would never make it to the 120 Hour Club.

Weinberg senior Taylor Alvaro said even though he raised all the money, he almost didn’t motivate himself to come out for his final DM. But as he browsed photos on the organization’s website from past marathons right before the event started, he knew he couldn’t miss it. He made it to the tent only minutes before DM kicked off this year.

“I didn’t want to come because I just remembered being miserable Block 3 through Block 7,” he said. “But then I realized it’s not about yourself.”

SESP senior Izzy Garcia almost didn’t make it through her freshman DM. She remembered feeling very lonely in the tent, and at one point she resorted to hiding under a table so that she could sit down. Another student found her, and rather than giving her a hard time for sitting, she asked if she could dance with her.

“For me that is what DM is,” said Garcia, who has been a member of the Dancer Relations committee since her sophomore year.

She said this year was particularly special because she spent the majority of the event with the families of the heroes, which gave her a sense of why she’s danced for so many hours over the years.

Beyond just knowing how to survive the 30 hours in the tent, 120-hour club members know the best ways to fundraise. Garcia this year painted nails on campus to push her over her fundraising goal.

Weinberg senior Matthew Kendall raised funds by shaving his head if his friends helped him surpass a certain fundraising mark. He let the six friends who donated the most actually shave it, bringing his fundraising total to $500, the highest amount he’s raised over the past four years.

“You spend all of this time in the tent, and most of it’s uncomfortable and not enjoyable,” Kendall said. “All of the sudden it’s coming to an end.”

For Kendall, making it to the 120 Hour Club would not have been possible without his freshman year roommate Andrew Beir. Both Kendall and Beir have pushed each other to dance every year since, and they are now the only two dancers from their fraternity Phi Kappa Psi who are in the 120-hour club.

Bier said a Phi Psi who graduated a year ago came back to DM and has been at the tent.

“I think that’s something I could see myself doing next year; I want to stay involved,” he said. “I’m going to miss it.”

McCormick senior Susan Muehrcke said she is attending graduate school at Northwestern next year and would be a member of the 150-hour if she could.

Even though she won’t be dancing next year, she has a simple message for the dancers who will follow her.

“Don’t give up,” she said.