Earlier this week, Dance Marathon Co-Chairs Kunal Joshi and Scott Ritter spilled about the inside workings of one of the nation’s largest student-run philanthropies. Joshi is a premed senior in Weinberg studying Psychology. Ritter is a senior in the Radio, Television & Film and Integrated Marketing Communications programs. They talked about last year’s million-dollar milestone, how they chose B+ and why dancers will absolutely, positively hear “Levels” by Avicii.
How did you first get involved with DM as freshmen?
Kunal: I got involved my freshman year because it seemed like something that everyone did. Ever since then I’ve loved it.
Scott: As a film major, I saw the opportunity to film such an exciting event as a very interesting and exciting opportunity. It’s a scale I’d never experienced before.
How did you choose The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation as this year’s beneficiary?
Kunal: As we were looking through this year’s beneficiary proposals, we were really looking for an organization that exuded hope, to make sure our money could go as far as possible. Obviously, we want to make sure people are fundraising for an incredibly good cause, and that our money was spent efficiently and wisely. The B+ Foundation exuded all of those characteristics and we saw that it would be a great fit for Northwestern this year.
Can you describe DM in three words?
Scott: Inspiring, unbelievable and unifying.
Kunal: Those were two of my three words. I’d add passionate in there.
What can first-timers expect in regard to the atmosphere in the tent?
Scott: It’s a once-in-a-lifetime – or once-in-a-year time if you do it for four years – experience. It’s really an opportunity for all of Northwestern to come together under one unified purpose and one very exciting opportunity.
Kunal: I remember when I walked into the tent my freshman year. You have no real… you see pictures, but you have no real conception of it until you get there. Be prepared for incredible lights, incredible energy and incredible passion.
What is your favorite part of the 30 hours?
Scott: One of the most touching parts of Dance Marathon is being able to dance with the kids on stage, and seeing the excitement that they have to be around so many college kids. The hope in their eyes and the excitement that there are all these people around to support them is truly amazing.
What time does your day start Friday?
Together: [Laughs] It’s probably going to start Thursday, Thursday morning.
Kunal: I remember last year when I was on the board, I woke up Thursday at 8:00 a.m. and didn’t sleep until Sunday at 4:00 a.m. So, our day starts Thursday?
What’s the craziest you’ve heard of someone fundraising?
Scott: One of the members of our Executive Board didn’t know about this, but his friends created a secret Facebook group, saying if they reached some amount, that he would dye his hair blonde.
Kunal: His hair is dark, so it went from this, [pointing to his own hair] to blonde.
Scott: They reached their goal without him knowing and then they let him know that he’d have to bleach his hair. It turned out more orange, so he looks like a basketball…
Kunal: …Or an Oompa-Loompa. And his hair is going to be orange through DM, so that is by far the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.
You hit $1 million for the first time last year. What did that moment mean to you?
Kunal: The amazing thing was, it wasn’t something I was consciously thinking about last year right up until that moment. You realize at that moment how hard people have been working all year. It’s not just about the money; it’s about how much we helped the CHF [Children’s Heart Foundation, 2011 Beneficiary]. That’s an incredible amount of money we raised.
Scott: This organization is about bringing everyone together. It’s about bringing the students, faculty and the Evanston and Chicago community together in one united effort. I think reaching that mark was an indicator of how well they achieved that last year.
How much did that factor into your planning? Did you say, ‘We need to hit $1 million again?’
Scott: A million dollars is amazing benchmark, but at the end of the day, we are making a phenomenal impact on the organizations that we’re benefitting. No matter what happens, we are going to change the B+ Foundation for the better.
Is there a song you could listen to once an hour, for 30 hours, and not get sick of?
Kunal: “Levels,” by Avicii is absurdly addicting to me. People on the board have started yelling at me because I listen to it too much.
So will “Levels” make the DM playlist?
Kunal: [Laughs] I know exactly when it will be played.
Scott: If Kunal did one thing this year, it was making sure “Levels” was played.
Kunal: I’ll make sure of it.
You’re both seniors. What’s next after the balloons fall?
Scott: Choosing our successors. It’s a huge decision.
Kunal: When everyone is still focusing on DM 2012, we have to start thinking about DM 2013.
Scott: The only thing in my future is DM 2012. It’s kind of a brick wall right now, but I plan to start looking over Spring Break.
Kunal: I’m applying to grad schools, to hopefully get my Master’s in Physiology.
Any final thoughts?
Scott: When you want to run out of the tent, stick with it, because those last few minutes, those last few hours in the tent are truly amazing.
Kunal: We’re not going to lie — DM’s tough, but at the end of the day, it’s worth it, and it will absolutely be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.