Why NUDM is a quintessential Northwestern experience

“May I have two chipotle chicken tacos please?” I asked.

The familiar Frontera Fresco cashier swipes my Wildcard and returns it sandwiched between my receipt and a buzzer. I smile, shove the card back into my pocket and walk away to find my friends.

Most of us at Northwestern probably do something similar for lunch. For many college students, meals are highly anticipated breaks from the stress of classes and clubs, but we often take them for granted. 

In the United States, 16 million children do not have the privilege of food security, and over 250,000 of them live in our own backyard, Cook County.

However, thanks to Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM) and this year’s beneficiary, Blessings in a Backpack, we have the power to do something about this silent hunger epidemic.

Dance Marathon is a 30-hour dance party held in a huge tent behind Norris at the end of winter quarter to raise awareness and money for a different charitable organization every year. Approximately 1,000 students participate, fundraising throughout fall and winter quarter. They meet hero children from the beneficiary and even form committees to ensure the event’s success. When the big weekend finally rolls around, the student-run philanthropy reveals the total amount raised, which has topped $1 million for the past five years.

I entered the tent last March as an unassuming freshman, just hoping that I would survive the marathon without embarrassing myself. We’ve all heard the horror stories.

30 hours later, I emerged enraptured by not only the cause, but also the community the event fostered. I joined a committee as soon as possible, met as many children beneficiaries as I could and heckled my friends and family for donations.

Some people were not as enchanted by NUDM as I was. The long hours take their toll, the fundraising is demanding and people like myself can sometimes be a bit too enthusiastic.

However, I believe that this is something everyone in the Northwestern community can and should support, beyond just giving donations and attending fundraising events.

Dance Marathon is a quintessential Northwestern experience and should be a top-priority item on every student’s bucket list. When such a large portion of the school falls in love with and rallies around a cause like DM, you know it’s worth investigating. I love watching students’ talent, passion and drive surge throughout the 30 hours of Dance Marathon.

It’s easy to decline an event that requires you to dance for more than an entire day. It’s easy to tend to your schoolwork right before reading week instead of purposely depriving yourself of sleep. It’s easy to shy away from challenges.

But Dance Marathon wasn’t designed to be effortless, and I don’t think anyone ends up at Northwestern because they take the easy way out. That core belief is arguably why NUDM is able to make the difference that it makes. Over the past 40 years, it has consistently grown, allowing it to reach the incredible level of impact it has today.

We have the chance to feed hundreds of thousands of children when they go home on the weekends. I dance because I have never had an opportunity to affect so many lives in such a powerful and positive way, and because I’ll only have a chance like this four times in my life.

We have proven our school’s united ambition to help the world time and time again. When the 30 hours are up and the fundraising total is revealed, I know that every single person in that blood, sweat and tears-drenched tent will smile with droopy eyes and sore feet, their discomfort overtaken by an overwhelming feeling of pride.

2 Responses to "Why NUDM is a quintessential Northwestern experience"

  1. joanne wills   March 8, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Great article, David! Thanks for dancing and killin’ your fundraising goal. A very worthwhile cause.

  2. Bill Hawkins   March 13, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    I’m an alumnus of both NU & NUDM (CAS/Music ’87). Randomly happened upon this article, and so happy to see Dance Marathon is still going strong!! Keep up the great work—and you’re right–best campus activity, bar none!

    Bill Hawkins
    Referees Co-Chair ’86
    (“No Parking on the Dance Floor”)
    General Co-Chair ’87
    (“Punch the Clock”)


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