For nearly a decade, NOVAdance has packed the Jake Nevin Field House on Villanova University's campus for a 12-hour dance marathon—a student-led effort to raise money for pediatric cancer. But how does such a high-spirited dance marathon survive a pandemic?
This year, NOVAdance was able to pivot its fundraising and awareness efforts to continue its commitment and dedication to raising money in support of the B+ Foundation and its mission. The B+ Foundation honors Andrew McDonough, who passed away from leukemia at 14. His B+ blood type inspired the name of the foundation, pronounced ‘Be Positive,’ which works diligently to end pediatric cancer and support impacted children and their families.
While last spring’s event had to go virtual, the day-long dance marathon will take place live, in-person in 2021—as part of an outdoor event spread throughout campus. It will feature socially distanced dancing, games and food trucks open to all Villanova students on Saturday, April 17th, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. There will also be a “reflection room” in the Alumni Gym for students to reflect on the children they are supporting, as well as impact of their cause.
Last year, confronted with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, NOVAdance remarkably was still able to hold the event virtually and raised $500,000. In 2019, NOVAdance raised the highest amount ever at $520,000.
NOVAdance members work year-round to support the B+ Foundation. In response to the pandemic, co-presidents Katie Connolly and McKenzie Mix have created alternative strategies to fundraise.
“We brainstormed a lot of ways to make the event pandemic friendly,” said Connolly. “We have always done ‘canning’ trips to Philadelphia on weekends to solicit donations from people walking around the city. While we weren't able to do that this year, we've done ‘virtual canning’, where students meet socially distanced on campus or Zoom. Instead of asking passersby for donations, they send emails, create social media posts, and text friends and family for donations,” said Connolly.
Another priority for the NOVAdance leaders was finding ways to interact with their B+ Heroes, the children who are battling or have battled cancer, and their families.
“Historically, we've had B+ Hero parties where we would invite all the local heroes and their families to come to campus for all of the activities,” added Connolly. “But this year we've pivoted to having Zoom rooms set up like hero parties where each room has different activities, where we have coloring sheets or where the children can play online games like Quiplash.”
In recognition of NOVAdance’s fundraising success, the B+ Foundation recently awarded a research grant in their honor to Dr. Sofia de Oliviera at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York for her research on liver cancer. In fact, NOVAdance plays a significant role in supporting the B+ Foundation.
"NOVAdance is one of the largest student-run events for the B+ Foundation,” said Allison Worms, Program Manager at the B+ Foundation. “This group through the years has embraced the true essence of the ‘Be Positive’ message. Through a year like no other, these incredible college students remained positive and persevered to continue in the fight against childhood cancer. It's truly an honor to work with them and we are so thankful for all they do for the kids.”
While NOVAdance has experienced challenges for these past couple dance marathon’s, its members have embraced the challenge and remain just as eager to serve —even though this year, like the last, will look different than in the past.
“Remaining positive through the shift to a more virtual world is just remembering that we are lucky to be able to do it. Andrew McDonough is not here to be able to be in a virtual world and we're still going to virtual classes and have the opportunity to be involved in this important organization,” said Connolly.