When making a difference is as easy as 1-2-step

There are plenty of organizations and clubs on campus that do an excellent job of rallying students around a common goal or cause, but none are quite like NOVAdance.

NOVAdance is a year-long fundraising effort culminating in a 12-hour dance marathon that benefits the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation. This foundation, launched by Joe McDonough, works to support children battling pediatric cancer and fund cancer research in honor of Andrew McDonough, Joe’s son who lost his battle with cancer. Students who choose to participate “have the opportunity to change the lives of children and families who need it most,” Jess Riker, Co-Executive Director of NOVAdance, said.

There are several levels of involvement available to students. General participants pledge to fundraise as much as possible throughout the year and are welcome to attend the dance marathon for as long as they wish to. Members of the Morale Committee pledge to raise at least 167 dollars — in honor of Andrew’s 167-day battle with cancer — and remain on their feet for the entirety of the 12-hour marathon. Finally, Sidekicks is a freshmen-only program that allows students to directly support children battling cancer, “Heroes,” and help to promote, planw and execute the second-semester dance marathon. 

Sophomore Tobi Oliveira participated in the Sidekicks program during his freshman year with significant personal motivation from losing two members of his hometown community to pediatric cancer. He extols the program for exposing him to all aspects of NOVAdance in order to help him find his niche moving forward. The entertainment part of the organization piqued his interest, so he plans to play an active role in that area for his remaining three years. 

Oliveira ranks the day of the dance marathon as one of the best of his freshman year. “To see that we raised over a quarter of a million dollars was one of the most emotionally satisfying moments,” he said. Because fundraising continues all year, it’s hard to gauge how much money is being raised until that moment, he said. Seeing all of the participants, Heroes, and their families come together to celebrate after the big reveal struck Oliveira. “I was proud to be a Sidekick and a part of NOVAdance overall,” he said.

Sophomore Shlok Kaneria did not let being rejected from the Sidekick program stop him from supporting the cause. “If you’re passionate about something and don’t get it, don’t give up,” he said. “Morale Committee gave me the same experience I would have had as a Sidekick, and I’m definitely going to do it again next year.” In the end, Kaneria raised 400 dollars — 200 in excess of his original goal — for the B+ Foundation as a member of the Morale Committee.

Interacting and talking with the Heroes impacted Kaneria the most. He is a member of Blue Key Society, which is partnered with Lilly, who has been diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis type 1. “Hearing from kids going through such hardships is difficult,” he said. These interactions allowed him and others to make lasting impacts on the lives of these children and their families, he said.

Applications for the Sidekicks program will be available in mid-to-late November. General participants and members of the Morale Committee must only sign up in advance of the dance marathon, but there is no hard deadline, Riker said. “There is always room for you if you are passionate about this cause,” she said. “The more people that can fight pediatric cancer, the better.”