Northwestern University Dance Marathon hosts 30 hours of festivities, raises more than $400,000 for charity


Zoey Soh/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern students danced all night at the Northwestern University Dance Marathon this weekend, which raised money for two Chicago-based organizations.

This weekend, students danced two nights — and one day — away at Northwestern University Dance Marathon, which raised $434,455 for Evanston Community Foundation and Little Heroes League.

“There are these incredible nonprofits in the Chicagoland area that are doing this work (to make changes),” NUDM Marketing & Media co-Chair and Weinberg senior Julia Mencher said.

NUDM, founded in 1975, has over 30 unique beneficiaries and has raised over $23 million since its inception. Last year, NUDM raised $580,778 for ECF and Chicago Youth Programs.

This year’s event, which took place over 30 hours from 7 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Sunday in a tent on the Norris East Lawn, included 10 blocks of three hours. Each block featured different themes, including “Wildcats AtTENTion,” which kicked off the event, and Taylor Swift homage “Midnights: Northwestern’s Version.”

ECF works toward equity in Evanston and awards money to individuals, families and other organizations. ECF’s services include a childhood education savings program and a Leadership Institute that works to encourage community leadership.

NUDM works with ECF because the University “would not be where they are today without Evanston’s support,” according to the release.

The Little Heroes League organizes care for medically complex babies in the Chicago area and coordinates pediatric specialists and procedures for families free of cost.

NUDM invited beneficiaries back to the tent for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, Jenna Friedman, NUDM Marketing & Media co-chair and Medill junior, said.

Friedman said the pandemic knocked the event “down a peg” as it was difficult for organizers to recreate a dance marathon in a virtual setting.

She said NUDM had to work to get its momentum back. Before 2022’s NUDM, Friedman and many other organizers had never seen the event prior to the pandemic.

According to Mencher, she became more focused on philanthropy rather than the marathon itself earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It wasn’t about this tent,” she said. “It was really about the fundraising and the beneficiary we’re working with.”

Friedman said NUDM’s planning process began 300 days before the marathon, and involved weekly executive board meetings and 10 committees focused on topics ranging from finances to community engagement.

Throughout the academic year, NUDM hosted “build events,” including a Halloween party, which connected dancers with the beneficiary before they came to the marathon.

Members and the dancers who signed up for the marathon aimed to raise money for the selected beneficiaries. 

NUDM finance committee member and Weinberg freshman Ella Marks raised about $360 this Fall Quarter alone. 

“I think more students should do (NUDM) because … it’s a great experience, even if you can’t stay the whole time,” Marks said.

Marks said though she was exhausted from staying up, NUDM was a great bonding experience. She wound up taking a two-hour nap on a couch in the Norris University Center along with about 10 other attendees.

Though NUDM is a “dance” marathon, the event also featured games like tug-of-war and performances by student groups, such as a cappella group Brown Sugar and Fusion Dance Company.

But, at its core, NUDM aims to give students a chance to give back to local charities. 

“We’re just hoping to do as much as we possibly can for these organizations,” Friedman said. “We’re getting out there and dancing and trying to engage with them as much as we can. Getting through the weekend and surviving the 30 hours is the least we can do for them.” 

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