NBN talked to Dancer Beneficiary Relations co-chairs David Wexler and Sarah Thompson during Block 6.
NBN: What does DBR do pre-DM and also during the 30 hours?
Wexler: During the 30 hours we are there to help the dancers with all their needs, make sure they are pumped up, happy, healthy, thriving. Throughout the year we organize the hero program, which is how NUDM engages with the beneficiary throughout the year. So we had different families assigned to teams and they had events with their teams so they got to know the families. But also we had hero parties. It was an open invite anyone from the Northwestern community to come and meet the families and engage with them to get excited and work up to the 30 hours.
Thompson: Throughout the year we also engage with the dancers, getting them prepared for the 30 hours, getting them to start thinking about fundraising early, and just be there as a resource for any questions they have and other ways to get involved with NUDM.
NBN: This is Block 6 and how are you guys feeling? How’s everything going?
Thompson: I keep saying, things are going surprisingly well. And it’s like [I'm] jinxing it! But things have been going really well!
NBN: What do you mean by “surprisingly well”?
Thompson: Just there are so many logistics to balance that there seems a lot of room for error, but things have been going really smoothly. The dancers have been high-spirited, and I think have been really engaged with everything we’ve put out for them...and all the speakers that have come, and a lot of the heroes that came last night will be coming soon today. That seems to get dancers in really high spirits.
NBN: How is DBR different from last year? Have there been new programs added for the dancers?
Wexler: Yeah. So last year, just based on the nature of the beneficiary, they didn’t pair up heroes with teams, and that’s kind of been a special relationship for some of the families to know individuals in the NU community, email and see them in the tent and get excited to dance with them and interact with them all year. So that actually has been done in the past. It wasn’t done last year and we picked it up this year. In terms of weekend-of stuff, we are always trying to make new ways to keep the dancers excited and motivated. A lot of the big things stay from year to year, like the tunnel that we do as the dancers run into the tent to get them excited, and just get dancers ready in their changing rooms as well.
Thompson: We tried a few new things this year. We tried a kind of color wars to incorporate a few of the dancer games altogether and to get people move around the tent. We have a really cool prize which is to play with puppies, which is happening right now upstairs. We also give dancers a lot of freedom when they go to the bathrooms to make the 30 hours more enjoyable.
NBN: What’s the biggest challenge you've faced so far?
Wexler: I think just planning something this big of a magnitude, there are so many details. We have this packet of things that we are working through all weekend. Making sure we have a point person, just making sure everything is in place for materials and games. It’s a huge effort and something we’ve been working through for many months just towards these 30 hours.
NBN: What’s your biggest hope right now at this moment?
Thompson: I just hope that everyone stays happy. We have two people graduated last year who worked on the exec board coming to visit, they just stopped by the tent quickly. They walked in right in the middle of DM, which can sometimes be the point when a lot of dancers start to feel really tired and kind of hit a bit of a low point. They walked in and were like “everyone’s smiling! The mood here is really good!” My biggest hope is that this feeling can grow and grow until the end of the 30 hours. And we can celebrate that feeling of being in the tent all together.
Wexler: I think my biggest hope is to make the biggest impact possible with Gigi’s Playhouse. We have been working all year and so many dancers have been engaging with them for so long. Not only making an impact in monetary donation, obviously that’s a big part of DM, but having everyone leave the tent knowing someone has been impacted by our work throughout the year on a personal level, and really understanding how that’s gonna benefit these families going forward.