DM places greater emphasis on service, reduces registration fee


Sophie Mann/Daily Senior Staffer

Students put their hands in the air during Block 7 of Dance Marathon. This year, organizers expanded opportunities for volunteering in an effort to be more inclusive of low-income students.

Leo Ji, Reporter

Dance Marathon has expanded opportunities for community service and reduced its registration fee in preparation for this year’s event.

The organization is asking students to pack bagged lunches for its beneficiary, Blessings in a Backpack, and it has reduced the registration fee from $50 to $35, in part due to increased funding from Associated Student Government.

DM’s focus on volunteering — in addition to fundraising — comes as the organization continues its efforts to be more inclusive.

“You can come pack bags for free,” said Weinberg junior Kalli Koukounas, NUDM spokeswoman “Everyone in the Northwestern community has the opportunity to have this hands-on experience of what Blessings in a Backpack does every week and feeding these children who wouldn’t get food on the weekends otherwise.”

Blessings in a Backpack provides schoolchildren who qualify for free and reduced-price meals during the week with bagged weekend meals. The nonprofit aims to feed children on Saturdays and Sundays because they can’t receive school meals during that time.

In April 2014, more than two dozen students signed a letter to the editor in The Daily and said DM should better serve low-income students. Since then, the organization has moved to become more accommodating, increasing funding for registration fee scholarships and opportunities for canning.

Weinberg sophomore Henry Chen participated in DM last year and said he’s not comfortable asking everyone who donated last year to give again.

“I think it’s important to have a stake in your Dance Marathon experience,” Chen said. “But $400 is a lot of money, and not everyone has a job, not everyone has the time to go out canning, so it’s really tricky.”

Weinberg senior Kevin Harris, one of DM’s executive co-chairs, said the choice of this year’s beneficiary will open DM up to students who want to support the organization through service rather than fundraising.

“That was something we were really excited about when we came across Blessings in a Backpack during the beneficiary application process,” Harris said. “It provides a whole other opportunity for engagement with not just dancers, but with the entire Northwestern community. We’re excited to make an even bigger difference beyond just a financial donation this year, and provide more ways for people to get involved with Dance Marathon.”

The bagged lunches will go to three schools in the Chicago area, including Lincoln Elementary School and Dawes Elementary School in Evanston.

DM hosted an event at Deering Days on Sept. 25 and packed more than 1,500 bags for Evanston children.

Fundraising for DM, however, is still encouraged. According to Blessing in a Backpack’s website, it costs $100 to provide a child with weekend meals for the entire school year.

“If you’re signing up for Dance Marathon and raising that $400 to be in the tent, you’re directly feeding four children for the entire school year,” Koukounas said.

DM also reorganized internally, announcing in April a restructuring of its committee system, including the addition of a community engagement committee.

DM will begin March 4, 2016.

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