Returning dancers were greeted with a familiar sight as the end of their 30 hours dancing drew nearer: Blessings in a Backpack, last year’s primary beneficiary, took the stage to discuss how Dance Marathon impacted their program.
“In Cook County alone there are more than 393,000 children who currently face food insecurities,” CEO Brooke Wiseman said. “But even though it is a problem in our community, it’s one that we can solve together. And that’s what we did last year, and we continue to do that on behalf of all of you.”
Wiseman said Blessings — a nonprofit organization that provides food-insecure children across the country with meals for the weekends — was able to expand their existing program sites and establish new ones in five targeted Midwest states thanks to more than $900,000 donated through NUDM 2016.
The money also will allow Blessings to add about 7,500 children to their programs over the next three fiscal years, she added.
“It was really nice because you kind of see how you had an impact on the beneficiary,” Weinberg senior Isabel Ngan said. “Last year you didn’t really see your impact, you kind of just saw us giving them a check. We didn’t really know what we’d done.”
Ngan said she personally had a strong connection to this year’s primary beneficiary GiGi’s Playhouse and their mission because in high school she said she used to work with individuals who had physical and mental disabilities.
“Learning and working with them, you realize how much of an impact you have,” she said. “Being able to do that this year, especially to end my DM career, was super nice… This year was just a lot more emotional.”
As the block began, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus and comedian Billy Eichner, both alumni, encouraged the dancers in celebrity videos.
“You’re helping such an incredible cause,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “(You’re) making a difference for so many people with Down syndrome across the country.”
Halfway through the block, Scott Boorstein’s family and friends took the stage to honor his memory. Boorstein was a rising Weinberg senior when he died in September. Boorstein’s loved ones said he was a two-time dancer and a “big fan” of DM.
“Scott embodied the best of DM,” said Dan Toubman, a Weinberg senior. “The incredible messages of hope, the community it tries to build, that’s what Scott was all about.”
Boorstein would have been in the 90 Hour Club after this year’s Dance Marathon. Jake Phillips, one of Boorstein’s close friends, told The Daily that a fundraising page in Boorstein’s memory had garnered the most money for their fraternity’s team, Alpha Epsilon Pi/Alpha Chi Omega/Pi Alpha Phi.
Phillips said he danced with Boorstein last year, and that Boorstein was unrelentingly positive through even DM’s most taxing moments.
“He loved it,” the Weinberg junior said. “He was never tired, he was never cranky. It’s so hard to do this, it’s not an easy thing and there was never a complaint from him.”
At the end of the block, following the “Sandstorm” tradition in which dancers huddle together to dance in a mosh pit to the popular song by Darude, members of the finance committee got onstage to reveal the final total of DM’s goal to raise $30,000 in 10 hours during the event.
Dancers raised a total of $49,560, including a matching donation of $10,000, significantly surpassing the initial goal.
Marissa Page contributed reporting.
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]