The beneficiary for Northwestern University Dance Marathon is chosen by a unanimous vote of the NUDM executive board, but it’s up to the executive co-chairs to evaluate different organizations and come up with a group of finalists. We sat down with Josh Parish and Anna Radoff, the new NUDM executive co-chairs, to talk about Team Joseph and DM 2014.
What was the process like in choosing a beneficiary?
Josh: It’s so difficult. We received more applications than ever before. It’s a long process of not just reading what they do, but looking at them from a holistic point of view. Something that we stress is that you have to put away the merit of what they do because they all do incredible things. There is no way we would be able to differentiate between them. So, you have to look at who will be the best partner for Dance Marathon.
Anna: For Josh and me, it wasn’t necessarily finding who has the best cause, but who will work with what we do as an organization and who will be able to be part of events. It’s not just us giving a check. It’s a partnership.
What did you see in Team Joseph that was special?
Anna: For me it was the genuine enthusiasm for what we do and what we can do together. When Josh and I met with them, we had this feeling where they really want to be a part of Northwestern and a part of Dance Marathon.
Josh: We saw both the hope and the desperation of their cause. Marissa [Penrod, Team Joseph CEO] often says this generation of boys living with Duchenne will either be the last to die, or the first to live. That’s how close she feels we are. They are at a nice point in their organization where a partnership with us will really propel them to the next level, not only in terms of the research they can fund, but really promote their message.
What was that moment like when you informed Team Joseph they would be the beneficiary?
Josh: They were beyond ecstatic. Marissa was shocked.
Anna: She had this whole speech prepared saying, “Do you believe in miracles?”
What can students expect from upcoming Dance Marathon events and partnerships?
Anna: We have a big Chicago connection with Dr. Kuntz, and we are looking to expand our Heroes Program. One of my main goals is to make sure every student who wants the opportunity, regardless if they are dancing, has an opportunity to meet someone affected by Duchenne and to connect to those families, to put a face to who we are helping.
Dance Marathon turns 40 this year. How do you plan to commemorate that?
Josh: We’re really looking to tie in alumni from years past, not just DM alumni but beneficiaries from years past. I think something we’ve noticed is that we say we’ve raised $14 million over the last 39 years, we don’t often hear what that money has gone on to do, whether that has helped find a cure or whether there is still a lot of funding needed. We really want to show our fun history and the extent to what we have accomplished.
Anna: Josh and I keep joking DM is now hitting middle age. In our middle age we still want to be young and moving forward while highlighting our past. DM has the potential to reach people who are at Northwestern, Evanston, in the Chicago area regardless if you participate in the actual weekend. And for our 40th year, Team Joseph really has the potential to show people what we are all about.