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Students dance for pediatric cancer charity

More than 750 Northwestern students will dance all weekend — 30 hours, starting Friday, March 7 at 7 p.m. — to raise funds for a local pediatric cancer charity in the 34th annual Northwestern University Dance Marathon.

Each participating couple has raised $800 to qualify for the honor of dancing, said Elizabeth Campbell of NUDM. One of the largest student-run philanthropies in the world, NUDM raised over $700,000 last year.

Its primary beneficiary this year is the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation, founded in 1992 by Kathleen A. Casey and named for her son, Barrett “Bear” Krupa, who died at the age of 8 of Wilms tumor, a pediatric cancer.

Bear Necessities provides grants for research into treatment and cures for pediatric cancer and for information and support services nationwide. In Chicago area hospitals, its Small Miracles program “provides something small and meaningful” to brighten up a child’s life, said Courtney Krupa, the foundation’s marketing director and Bear’s sister. “Depending on what stage the child is at, it could be an X-box or an iPod, or a shopping spree downtown with friends, or a limo ride to a dinner and a play with family and friends.”

Last year the program reached a large proportion of the estimated 400 children in oncology wards of area hospitals, she said. The group’s website has a photo of a Power Rangers birthday party at Dave and Buster’s for one kid’s third birthday last month.

The program is modeled on Bear Krupa’s generosity and concern for others as he battled cancer himself, Courtney said. “He was always aware of kids whose families couldn’t stay with them or who didn’t have friends and family bringing them little presents, and he would always be the one to share his french fries or his coloring book with them,” she said.

Since September, Northwestern students have been conducting their own fundraising operations — canning at street corners, auctioning off dates and odd jobs, writing fundraising letters — to raise money to qualify for the dance. That entitles them to dance for 30 hours, from 7 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Sunday, with ten ten-minute breaks. DJ Jay Sims provides music (as he has for over a decade), but he gets a break Saturday afternoon as the winner of a student battle of the bands is featured.

A full weekend of non-dancing activities attracts thousands more, Campbell said. There’s bingo, a 5K run, arts and crafts, a carnival and a kids fair.

Since 1998, NUDM has had the Evanston Community Foundation as its secondary beneficiary, donating ten percent of raised funds, totalling $600,000 over the years. Nearly 20 years old, the Foundation was created to fund emerging organizations and new ideas in Evanston. Last year it launched an initiative to ensure that all children are ready for kindergarten. 

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Category: health, philanthropy, youth

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