Rutgers Dance Marathon Wrap 2016

Page 1


Dance Marathon Page 2

April 4, 2016

U. Dance Marathon raises record high of $912,143.47 NIKHILESH DE NEWS EDITOR

More than 2,000 families have been assisted by the Rutgers University Dance Marathon over the last 18 years, raising nearly $6 million over the course of the nearly two-decade long tradition, culminating with $912,143.47 raised in the 2016 Rutgers University Dance Marathon. Thirty-six team captains organized more than 300 volunteers over the weekend to help the 300 families in the RU4Kids program as part of the Embrace Kids Foundation to raise funds for the families of children afflicted with different cancers and blood-related disorders. “It was truly an exceptional experience — Dance Marathon is very significant to me and this year it was transformative,” said Parth Shingala, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “DM doesn’t just represent the weekend’s worth of effort, it transcends the event — it shows the essence of what Rutgers is.”

“We changed the setup of the marThe full sum of the money Marathon history, raising more raised goes toward the Embrace than $220,000 greater than athon completely this year, and honestly I think we were able to capture Kids Foundation, said Tatiana last year. Students have spent the last 11 the same essence in both sessions,” Blackman, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. Blackman was months preparing for this year’s she said. “That was my biggest the director of communications weekend, Blackman said. Fund- fear going into marathon weekend, for this year’s event, and began ing for the different aspects of the that people would think that wasn’t program came from the Rutgers the case, and I believe we showed working on it in May 2015. The funds go toward the foun- University Student Assembly al- them that although we changed dation’s operating budget, which locations committee, concessions the setup the marathon remained the same.” is used to help The efforts families of were recogchildren with nized by Vice cancers and Chancellor for blood disor“We’re honoring the memory of Taylor.” Student Affairs ders, organize Felicia Mcparties for the PARTH SHINGALA Ginty, who took patients, hire School of Arts and Sciences Junior the stage near tutors to enthe end of the sure the kids second session. do not fall be“You all hind in school and otherwise create a “sense of sold at athletic events, sponsors, have worked tirelessly,” she said. the Division of Academic Engage- “On behalf of the University, I can normalcy,” she said. “As we raise more funds we can ment and Programming and from say that we stand in awe of you help (the) Embrace Kids Founda- students, who paid a $25 or $35 and of your dedication in your drive to share.” tion increase their overall mission registration fee. The attendees included more One of the most difficult asfulfillment rate,” she said. This year, Dance Marathon pects for this year’s event was than 150 students and alumni saw the single greatest year- changing the format into its new who have been involved for at least three years. to-year leap in Rutgers Dance two 12-hour sessions, she said.

The alumni alone raised $80,967 for this year’s event. “I’m still processing it all,” Blackman said. “I think the overall feeling is just total happiness. Family Hour is by far my favorite part every single year. Seeing the dancers interact with the kids and really connect to who the money is being raised for is an amazing sight.” Students will continue raising money and awareness, Shingala said. His fraternity, Chi Psi, has raised the largest amount of money for the marathon for the last 13 years. They also sponsored a child, Taylor Barta, over the past several years. Barta died on March 20, less than two weeks before Dance Marathon, just over two years after his diagnosis of stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. “I’m looking forward to seeing how they keep raising,” Shingala said. “We’re honoring the memory of Taylor. He was the sweetest, smartest child, and we want to make sure no other kid dies from cancers and blood disorders.”

DM sees 18th year with changes Taekwondo club wows students with demos DAN COREY


More than 45 years since the Rutgers Zeta Beta Tau fraternity sponsored one of the first dance marathons nationwide, Rutgers University Dance Marathon still has University students moving to the same beat. Now years removed from when Rutgers students danced to “The Bunny Hop” and “The Cha-Cha,” the University-sponsored marathon reached its 18th anniversary by splitting the event into two 12-hour sessions, departing from the weekend’s previous 30-hour format. “It’s really helpful for students who are held back by their schedules (and) exams — even physical abilities,” said Gabrielle Rosario, assistant director of Public Relations for RUDM. “Having the split sessions is more inclusive for everyone.” The two sessions — “Scarlet” and “Silver,” respectively — are nearly identical and collectively form one dance marathon event. But the new format maintains that closing ceremonies only occur at the second session’s conclusion. With the new format, only Rutgers seniors and returning dancers are allowed to dance during both sessions, said Tatiana Blackman, director of Communications for RUDM. Even though the Rutgers Athletic Center’s capacity was well above the number of dancers last year, RUDM organizers felt that a split-session marathon was more inclusive as it avoids capping the number of participants, according to The Daily Targum. The intended result is an increase in donations for the New Brunswick-based Embrace Kids Foundation, which helps children and families affected by cancer,

sickle cell and other serious disorders. This year’s RUDM proceeds will add to the $4.9 million that previous marathons raised for Embrace Kids. “It’s obviously new for us — it’s our first year trying it — so it does come with a couple of risks, but we are really confident in the way that we planned it,” said Blackman, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “We spent a lot of time figuring the kinks out and making sure everything runs smoothly.” Splitting RUDM into two sessions also benefits health and safety, as it provides students more recovery time before Monday classes, said Felicia McGinty, vice chancellor for Student Affairs. “After hour six or eight, it really gets kind of tiring,” McGinty said. “I think what motivates them is that they’re doing something for these children … As long as they always keep that purpose in mind of why they’re here, and what the benefit is, I hope that (connection) is never lost.” The new format was influenced by several student focus groups that the RUDM organizers met with in recent months. Positive student feedback led the organizers to believe that the change was a move in the right direction, adding 562 more dancers than last year, Blackman said. “Our ultimate goal is to always raise awareness,” she said. “The more awareness we raise, the more opportunities there (are) for us to raise funds, but raising awareness really is our No. 1 priority.” This year’s marathon also marks the removal of Club DM, which will now occur during the fall semester as a standalone event. The marathon’s new format was one of many reasons to reschedule Club DM, and organizers hope this

will raise awareness for the main spring weekend. Without Club DM, organizers hope to motivate double-session dancers by having them view the new Children’s Gallery, which features a collection of photos from Embrace Kids patient families. The display includes “thank you” letters from patients, along with tributes to children who lost battles with cancer. But RUDM’s greatest challenge with implementing the format change was “doing everything double,” said Rosario, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “You have to make sure that both sessions get the same experience, that everyone’s at the same level of excitement — that the opening of the first sessions is just as good as the opening in the second session,” she said. This was also RUDM’s greatest challenge in regard to funding the marathon, as well as maximizing the final total to be donated to Embrace Kids, said Ankur Choksi, director of Finance for RUDM. “We had to spend close to twice the amount we (spent) on DM last year,” the School of Engineering senior said. “The challenge is really working with every student and making sure that they raise their fundraising minimum because we want to maximize the number of people who participate.” RUDM addressed this concern by helping the dancers reach their donation minimum of $350 per session, Choksi said. The number of dancers who raised the $350 jumped to 91 percent this year, reflecting an 11 percent increase. “I’m really happy with the total,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s not (about) the total dollar amount. It’s about the experiences (and) the interactions that everyone has. That has value, and we can’t put that in dollars.”


able to get the team on the roster. “We weren’t ready yet, so we prepared,” Kim said. While the audience was imIn the early morning hours of 4 a.m., most Rutgers University pressed by the members’ ability Dance Marathon participants are to break wooden boards, Jongsma exhausted. But the members of said it is as much a mental ability as Rutgers Taekwondo, who left the a physical one, similar to skydiving. “A lot of it is really mental. It’s stage filled with adrenaline, reennot hard to break, it’s just people ergized the crowd. The Rutgers Taekwondo demo can’t fathom hitting a board. We’re team, which began only two years not wired that way,” Jongsma, a ago, had its biggest performance to School of Arts and Sciences sophdate during the first RUDM session. opmore, said. “We are confident “The demo team is basically a enough with our training that we flashy, tricky version of TaeKwon- know we can break it.” Poole, a School of Arts and SciDo,” said Griffin Poole, the team’s Public Relations Chair. “When ences sophomore, referred to the we’re in Taekwondo doing what area in front of the stage as the “splash zone” we do, no one sees — where bits of it. When we come “A lot of it is really wood fly into the out to perform in front of people, we mental. It’s not hard to audience. is can entertain peobreak, it’s just people alsoThepartteam of the ple and have a blast can’t fathom hitting Eastern Collewhile doing it.” giate TaekwonThe team shata board.” do Conference tered wooden (ECTC), a league boards and exeMARK JONGSMA that consists of cuted high kicks Vice Captain of the Rutgers to the sound of Taekwondo demo team and School different universities up and down crowd-pleasing of Arts and Sciences sophomore the east coast songs such as “We who compete Will Rock You” and against each other. This year, the “Gangnam Style.” At last year’s Dance Marathon, team has travelled to universities the team tried to score a spot on including Brown and MIT. Their the list of nights’ performers, but next tournament is coming up in Vermont next week. had no luck. Spending six hours on a bus to “We started two years ago, this demo team, and we were trying to these tournaments has brought perform at the 2015 Dance Mar- the team closer together, said Vice athon last year, but we didn’t get Captain Dennis Cheng, a School of it,” said Hakseong Kim, the team’s Arts and Sciences sophomore. “Last year at my first tourcoach and a School of Arts and Scinament, I didn’t know half the ences sophomore. For the past year since, the team people going on the bus because has practiced for two hours three it was my first year in the club,” Cheng said. “After that, I knew times a week. And the hard work paid off when everyone. You get to know their Vice Captain Mark Jongsma was stories and where they’re from.” MANAGING EDITOR

April 4, 2016

Dance Marathon Page 3


Students dedicate weekend to raising funds for children FRANCESCA PETRUCCI CONTRIBUTING WRITER


Students walking into the Rutgers Athletic Center around noon on day two of the Rutgers University Dance Marathon were greeted with a barrage of music, smoke, neon costumes and hundreds of dancing bodies. Many were front and center pressing up against the stage and following an instructor teaching participants this year’s line dance. Others were scattered, dancing in small clusters while laughing with friends, eating or taking selfies. Others still were doing crafts or participating in a variety of games. Fanny packs, glitter and costumes were everywhere. Most of the dancers had been there since the day began at around 7:30 a.m. and planned on staying through the night. Julia Freeman, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, danced with her fellow Scarlet Ambassadors Saturday. The hardest part of RUDM is not the physical exertion of standing, which dancers are required to do through the entire marathon, she said. Instead, the true challenge comes from not being able to sit down, something Freeman usually takes for granted. But she is not self-conscious about dancing. “Every one else is doing it too, and it’s so much fun,” she said. Haille Thomas, also a Scarlet Ambassador and a School of Arts and Sciences junior, preferred to watch the dancing and participate in other activities such as the crafts and games while waiting for the children and families being sponsored to arrive. Madison Hagar, a student in the Graduate School of Education, led the dancing onstage for about 45 minutes on Saturday. Hagar, who also works as a Zumba instructor, has been participating in RUDM since her sophomore year of her undergraduate degree when she was a morale captain. Hagar led the dancers in an hour of Zumba during each session. Now in her final year at Rutgers, she is excited to once again be a part of an amazing cause. The hours of previous years were difficult to get through, Hagar said. Splitting RUDM into two separate shifts makes participating much easier on her. “When the families come, you get a second wind and feel like you can keep going because you see what you were fundraising for,” Hagar said.

Every year, a child from the New Brunswick-based Embrace Kids Foundation is paired with a fraternity, sorority or other organization at Rutgers. Several children danced with their organizations at the 2016 Rutgers University Dance Marathon. Marcia Wares, whose family member is part of Embrace Kids, said the organization has always helped her family. When her daughter, Kianna needs to go to the hospital for treatment, members from the charity visit with her and provide assistance, she said. This organization is unique as it aims to help children of a multitude of disorders, not just one, Wares said.


Rebellious shirts and plaid attitudes were rocking the room to Never-Never Land. It was definitely a “Nine Deeez Nite.” The band that kept Dance Marathon moshing to the music down millennial lane was present for their fourth year at the annual charity event. Nine Deeez Nite is a 90s tribute band created six years ago by four childhood friends from Monmouth County. The band covers anyone and anything that ever grunged or hip-hopped across the charts at the end of the 20th century, but they wanted to be “more than just a 90s cover band.” The members’ names fit their character with Shady Frasier (Pete) on drums, Casey Slasher (Corey) on vocals and keys, Timmy Gibbler (Tom) on guitar and Roach (Charlie) on bass. “We do 150 shows across the country in colleges, casinos, local places (and) football stadiums,” Gibbler said. They have a wide repertoire of venues and events with Dance

This was the first RUDM that the Wares family attended, she said. They left late the first night because Kianna did not want to leave. And they returned on the second day because Kianna enjoyed it so much. Sean Goff has aplastic anemia and also attended the marathon. He was adopted by the Sigma Delta Tau sorority. Sean’s mother, Tracy Goff, a former speaker at the event, said she loved attending the marathon because she enjoys seeing all of the young people support Embrace Kids. The event is uplifting, she said. Sean had been practicing his dance moves prior to the event, Goff said. But Sean himself was quick to deny that.

Marathon holding a special place in their hearts. They got involved with Dance Marathon through a mutual friend. “A friend of the band was on the Dance Marathon planning board,” Gibbler said. The band played twice during this year’s marathon, during the night of April 1 as part of the Scarlet Session and in the early afternoon on April 2 as part of the Silver Session. The act and marathon overall seemed to be a success to Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy fourth-year student Margaret Finnegan, who said this was her third Dance Marathon with her sorority Alpha Zeta Omega. “I think (Dance Marathon) is awesome, (and) it’s even bigger and better than last year,” she said. The marathon later took a turn towards the mystic when professional “mentalist” Kent Axell took the stage. Axell, a professional magician and a consultant for the TV show “Brain Games,” bases his skills in the sub-genre of magic known as mentalism, which “replicates mind reading.”

Axell’s love for magic came at a young age. “My uncle knew a few magic tricks, and I was just fascinated by it,” Axell said. This was Axell’s first Dance Marathon. Throughout the act, several students took to the stage to partake in Axell’s mind-boggling tricks. Elizabeth English, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student and Dance Marathon first-timer, was one such student. Axell picked her out of the crowd to aid him in a stunt where she was to mix up four paper bags without him looking, one of them containing a wood block with a large spike protruding from it, and lead him to slam his hand down on the three empty bags. “I thought this (would be) the reason he was gonna go to the hospital,” English said. The crowd was equally appalled when Axell slammed his hand down on each bag. Luckily, or perhaps magically, Axell was unharmed and rather pleased with the marathon. “I’d love to come back to Rutgers,” Axell said.


Amidst the sound of music and booming bass, children and their families took center stage to meet the exhausted students dancing for their health. Family Hour is a time when students can interact with the kids they sponsored, said Labiba Salim, a Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy junior. Every week counting down to Dance Marathon, a member of the organization sponsoring a child develops a personal connection with the patient. Dharmesh Patel, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said he felt satisfaction from being able to give back to the community and the kids. Patel added that the impact of Dance Marathon stems from its widespread reach at the University. Since so many people recognize it as a good cause, there is a greater number of students that participate. “Dance Marathon has made its mark in the community here at Rutgers,” he said. Patel was president of Key Club at his former high school, an organization dedicated to personalizing treatment for all patients. Members volunteered at the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital and took care of children among other activities. Marcia and Joseph Wares, parents of Kiana Wares, one of the sponsored children, said they are grateful that students take time out of their day to bring joy to the children. The Wares attended Dance Marathon three years ago and were amazed that the students gave so much to the cause. “It’s a terrific opportunity to see who they’re dancing for,” Joseph Wares said.