After a year-long wait, DM executive co-chairs Matt Larsen and Katie Amys have finally reached their fourth straight Dance Marathon, this time at the top of the helm. NBN caught up with the duo to discuss morale boosting, the Danny Did foundation and what made this year's beneficiary unique.
NBN: How do you think Dance Marathon has gone so far?
KA: I think everything has gone really well so far, especially from what I've heard from committee members and dancers. In terms of morale, we have now passed that really tough block where people usually get a little tired, a little cranky. Overall, it seems like most people didn't hit that or eased through it.
ML: Yeah, and all the committee members, whenever we've had to make last minute adjustments to schedules, everyone's been able to handle it really well.
NBN: How do you guys try to keep morale up for exec and your dancers as co-chairs?
ML: Right now, we're like the happiness co-chairs. Among our exec board, we've really maintained positivity. We've been cracking jokes, keeping the mood light.
KA: We have some fun games and toys in our exec room, so if you're just feeling like you need to de-stress, there are stuffed animals and little tennis racket-type games. At this point, we just have to make sure [exec, committees, etc.] just all stays calm. They've put a lot of planning into everything, so it's easy to get caught up in a little detail about something. It's like, "You're good, look how happy everybody else is."
NBN: What's the reception been like for the Stanton family, for the Danny Did Foundation as a whole?
ML: You know, it was probably hard for them to imagine what the event might actually look like. Tom Stanton, our liaison, has been to all of our exec meetings and all the planning that went into it and he's come up to us and told us this has been an amazing event. There's 1,300 students our here, spending their entire weekend for their organization. It kind of hit him at blast off. They're having a great time too.
KA: Everyone who I've interacted with from the Danny Did Foundation has been so grateful, so happy. They tell us, this is amazing what you guys are doing for us. We're so thankful that you chose us. They're just in awe.
NBN: Have you guys experienced any bumps in the road over the past couple of blocks?
ML: Nothing too major. Things are moving pretty smoothly.
KA: Yeah, we had to cancel the run around, which tends to happen every other year. You know, weather permitting. We just let the dancers run around outside, but it was raining and there was a big icy path.
ML: Here and there, a speaker may run a little late, and we'll have to adjust the schedule.
KA: But we have room to work with.
NBN: Talk about the process of choosing Danny Did as this year's beneficiary.
ML: We were selected as co-chairs on a Friday, and that Monday, we started to look through all of the beneficiary applications. We had a little over 60, and we sat down together and came up with what we were looking for in the beneficiary. We were looking for an organization that could connect with a campus of students and an organization that would really benefit from the money and awareness we were raising. That's how we went into it. We had a process of phone interviews and in-person interviews. Then we gave three to our exec board and everyone had to unanimously pick one, so we had a long deliberation process.
KA: Ultimately their goal and their mission and their purpose really aligned well with Dance Marathon and what we strive to do so it just seemed like a really great fit.
NBN: What about the Danny Did in particular stuck out to you?
KA: What really stuck out was that's it's not just epilepsy, a really overarching disease. But it's the specificity of SUDEP. You know, having that particular story and how they didn't let that destroy them. They're turning around and fighting back.
ML: Another thing is that we really wanted to focus on making it a year-round experience, to building a relationship with the beneficiary. So we really wanted to do that with the Danny Did foundation. They had a lot of heroes, so families in the area that would be able to come to our events. We could tell from the interactions with [Tom Stanton] in our interviews that he would be really involved and really help us with the planning and execution and just attendance at events. Overall, their message really aligned well with a young generation. They heavily rely on social media and awareness. Tom, in his interview with us, said they're really focusing on the college generation to really push the message of SUDEP.
KA: It is our generation that will be the ones solving diseases and being great doctors. All those pre-med kids. Geniuses!
Editor's note: This article originally stated that Larsen and Amys reached their third straight Dance Marathon, when it was actually their fourth. Thanks to PR Co-chairs Katie Prentiss and David Harris for catching the mistake. North by Northwestern regrets this error.