UDance raises $455K
Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 14:03
Joe McDonough, architect of the Delaware-based nonprofit The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, walked into the refuge of the Delaware Field House's lobby Sunday afternoon, temporarily escaping the deafening roar of more than 2,500 students and faculty participating in the sixth annual UDance fundraiser, a 12-hour marathon event. A gentle smile spread across his face as he stopped for a moment and listened to the crowd behind him.
McDonough retrieved his phone and called 16-year-old Miranda Ram-Nolte, a young cancer patient adopted by the Sigma Kappa sorority as their "hero." He asked if she could make it to UDance in time for the 5 p.m. ceremony, when the "heroes" are brought on stage to recognize their battle with cancer. Ram-Nolte said she had scheduled her chemotherapy treatment for the day accordingly, and that she would try to get there on time.
The phone call was a small gesture, but one that represents the level of commitment McDonough expresses to each of the 22 "heroes." His foundation facilitates partnerships between children battling pediatric cancer and campus organizations for the UDance event. The organization also organizes a similar fundraising event at Northwestern University, sponsors a NASCAR race car to raise awareness and holds other community activities. The money raised is used primarily to help families in need of financial assistance and secondarily to fund pediatric cancer research.
"When my son [Andrew] went to heaven on July 14, 2007, this became my crusade. This isn't a job. This is a seven day a week crusade, and I will be doing this until the day I die," McDonough said. "Obviously this isn't going to bring him back, but it's going to make a big difference in the battle against childhood cancer."
Andrew died after battling childhood acute myeloid leukemia at age 14, and the B+ Foundation was established soon after.
Joe credits his family for lending their passion and support to the organization, and maintains that he couldn't do it without them. His daughter Ali is a university senior, a member of Alpha Delta Pi and co-chairman of the UDance executive board. She raised $5,101, making her the highest-ranked independent donor of the entire event. After graduation she plans to work as a grief and trauma counselor.
Her father calls the career choice remarkable after all their family has been through.
"I'm not going to lie—every day is so hard," Joe said. "I start and finish every day in my son's bedroom. My son was my best friend—he is still my best friend—I just don't get to see him. I have so many memories that no one can ever take away from me. Andrew only lived 14-and-half years, but I have memories that a lot of people will never have no matter how long their child lives. From that standpoint, I'm blessed."
UDance co-executive coordinator and senior Eric Oppenheimer has been involved with the event since he was a freshman. He currently doubles as the philanthropy chair for Alpha Epsilon Pi. Oppenheimer and the rest of the board members arrived at 8 a.m. Sunday to begin setting up, and did not leave until midnight.
"We figured out that we had raised about $450,000 in the first five years," Oppenheimer said. "When we looked at the total tonight, we realized what UDance has become in a short amount of time. We were pretty confident in the fact that we were going to do pretty well. We didn't think that we were going to do this well."
Sorority Alpha Epsilon Phi and fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon started UDance together in 2006, and the first event brought in a little more than $8,000 in donations to fund cancer research. Two years later, Joe formed a partnership with his foundation and UDance. After four years of growth, Sunday's event raised $455,982.16, surpassing the $400,000 goal UDance executive board members set in September, and more than doubling the previous five-year cumulative total.
The collective efforts of the Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority weighed in at $46,973, ranking them as the highest donating organization among all 80 of the participating groups. Sorority president and senior Talia Fishbon said she is proud of her organization and, as leadership transitions to her successor junior Rachel Zeiger, she expects the future to bring even greater achievements.
Senior and fraternity Kappa Delta Ro President Mark Abdelnour said UDance was a chance for the group to give back to the community.
"KDR was, unfortunately, a little apathetic about things like that," Abdelnour said. "We've recently kicked it into high gear."