This year’s UDance Dance Marathon, which was themed “wild about finding a cure,” raised $1,890,337.16, an increase of almost $200,000 from 2016.
1,194 “moralers” and 1,582 dancers participated in the 12-hour dance marathon, each earning their spot by fundraising several hundred dollars to fight childhood cancer.
In its 11 years, the university’s annual UDance has raised more than $7 million for the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, a Delaware nonprofit that helps fund childhood cancer research and offers financial support to families with children who have cancer. Joe McDonough started the foundation in 2007 after his son, Andrew, passed away from leukemia.
“The B+ Foundation, as driven by UDance, is now the largest provider of financial assistance to families with kids with cancer in the country,” McDonough said. “Last year, UDance and other events around the country helped 2,200 families.”
McDonough explained that, as a university alumnus, he “could not be more proud” of what the students at the university have accomplished.
“I just think that it’s really important that the students realize how much we appreciate what they’re doing,” he said.
In its first year, UDance raised $8,000 and could fit into the Trabant Multipurpose Room. Since then, the event has garnered such high attendance and attention that it now fills the Bob Carpenter Center.
“[The growth] is all thanks to the inherent drive in every student at UD to leave this world a better place than they entered it,” Jacob Cummings, one of the co-executive directors for UDance, stated in a press release.
Along with the B+ Foundation, UDance also works closely with the Gift of Life organization. While at the event, attendees had the opportunity to sign up for the national bone marrow registry.
Senior Katie Katz, the co-executive chair of UDance, brought Gift of Life to UDance last year through the Gift of Life Campus Ambassadors program. During UDance in 2016, over 700 students were added to the national registry.
Katie’s mother, Lisa Katz, explained that bone marrow transplant became a “near and dear” issue to the family after one of Katie’s sisters was diagnosed with leukemia.
“When the Gift of Life started this campus ambassador program, it was kind of a natural fit for Katie,” Lisa Katz said. “She’s very passionate and she’s very committed. It’s in her heart to help other people and she’s done it in a lot of different ways. We are very proud of her.”
Katie Katz explained in a press release that UDance has three primary goals: supporting families, funding research and providing “genuinely happy moments for kids who deserve a chance at a normal childhood.”
She also stated UDance is “more than a 12-hour dance marathon.”
“It is the opportunity to join a movement that extends beyond the routine of a typical college student,” Katie Katz said. “It is thousands of students selflessly uniting together to fight childhood cancer.”
As part of UDance’s fundraising plan, there are different levels of volunteers. Students who sign up as “moralers” are obligated to raise a minimum of $246 while students who sign up as “dancers” have to donate at least $460 to maintain their “dancer” status. Students who raise over $1,000 are recognized as part of the “Comma Club.”
Freshman Emily McCavera raised $1,851 through “generous” donations from friends and family friends. In addition to being a member of the Comma Club, McCavera was a UDance engagement coordinator for the students who live in Russell Residence Hall.
McDonough heard about UDance in 2009 and the B+ Foundation has partnered with it since.
That was also when the B+ Heroes Program started, which pairs campus organizations with a child who has cancer, known as the group’s “hero.” Four new children were added to the program in 2017, for a total of 51 B+ Heroes at this year’s event.
McDonough said the program is important because it makes childhood cancer into more than just “a sheet of statistics” and provides the opportunity for students on campus to really connect to the issue.
Each participating student organization raised money for an assigned hero and had the opportunity to remain in contact with them throughout the year.
The Athletic Training Student Association was paired with a Hero named Kai.
“I’m happy to be here and I’m happy we can share it with Ty,” senior Jacob Stoner said. “He’s meant a lot to our organization.”
Stoner was one of the three Athletic Training Student Association representatives at the event. They were able to spend most of the day alongside Ty, playing and talking in the B+ Hero Room with other representatives and heroes.
In 2016, the Athletic Training Student Association raised $11,000. This year, they raised more than $23,000.
Senior Collin LeNoir has worked with the program since he was a freshman. As the director of campus engagement, LeNoir helped to engage students who were not already participating through Greek life or an athletic organization. This included RSOs, residence halls and faculty.
“I just love to support the B+ Foundation. I’m from Delaware so I’ve always felt pretty connected to it,” he said. “UDance was another way I could be involved with B+ post-high school.”
LeNoir danced for two heroes — the first a six-year-old girl named Maggie, who was paired with the club cross country and track team.
He also danced for Alex, the UDance executive board’s hero, who passed away last year. He would have turned 22 the same day UDance was hosted.
A wall near the dance floor displayed a series of quotes from parents of heroes, as well as ways UDance and the B+ Foundation have made a difference. A separate board nearby featured handwritten notes from dancers. One phrase was written many times: “For the Kids,” or FTK, which is UDance’s primary slogan.
“The students have given up their time and have made this a focus and they have literally changed the landscape of childhood cancer,” McDonough said. “There are literally children alive today because of the students at the University of Delaware.”
Correction: In the original article, we stated that the name of the B+ hero was Ty. The hero’s name is really Kai.