Whether you are a student or a teacher at Niles North, you have probably been the recipient of a multitude of e-mails from Pankaj Sharma in the past couple of weeks. The appearance of these e-mail could only mean one thing: Dance Marathon is around the corner!

On Saturday, May 20, from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Niles West will host the District 219 Dance Marathon (DM) open to all students, teachers, and community members. For the entirety of the 2016-2017 school year, DM executives, morale captains, and dancers have been working tirelessly to raise money and awareness for this year’s beneficiary, Hope Junior.

Hope Junior is a nonprofit organization operating out of the Marillac St. Vincent Family Services center located on the west side of Chicago. The organization works to offer local children and teens high quality after-school programs in an attempt to reduce gun violence and engage the minds of the youth.

Describing the different NN and Hope Junior communities, Deanna Hallagan, Director of Hope Jr., said, “We live in a time when the city is facing so much violence and the kids are facing so much violence. Raising kids on the north side in a community where the schools are open from dawn until dusk is a much different experience than what the kids on the west side face. We’re ten miles apart, but it’s really two different worlds.”

However, to connect the two communities, through canning, bake sales, and fundraising events, students have worked to raise money in order to help improve extracurricular programs and services such as job access and job training for Chicago’s youth. DM members share a passion and enthusiasm to do the most they can for the selected charity, and have developed a loving relationship with the Hope Junior kids.

“It’s really nice to spend time with the kids playing games and just getting to know the people because when you’re trying to raise money, it always helps to know who you’re raising money for; it gives you more passion and drive to meet your goal,” Goodwin Francis, junior, said.

Jake Kramer, senior, added, “Unlike last year, or even the year before, we have much more opportunities to volunteer with this great organization. You really feel like you’re making a great impact in the lives of these kids.”

To build a more sound connection between the two seemingly different parties, volunteer opportunities included making trips over to the Marillac center to play games and partake in spoken word with the Hope Jr. kids and hosting arts and crafts events at NN to encourage all kids to creatively express themselves.

Jamarion, a Hope Jr. member, said, “What I like about Niles North and Niles West is that they make you feel comfortable. When I was giving a speech about the violence on the street, they were being respectful and they love to hear what we Marillac kids have to say.”

Within the Niles North community, students who are prominent figures in DM always end the year with a sense of pride by celebrating their accomplishments through music, dance, and reflection of their efforts.

“I feel like it’s very important to look at other people’s needs to help them, so I feel like Dance Marathon has really given me the opportunity to make use of that potential and to take hold of that opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life,” Francis said.

This year’s DM will take place in the Niles West gymnastics gym. For non-DM members, registration is $7 an hour and $12 for power hour; 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. is a free hour for all students, teachers, and community members. The theme hours are as follows:

  • Nerds vs. jocks
  • Marvel vs. Disney
  • Coachella (school appropriate please)
  • Neon power out!

Come show your support for Hope Junior! Dance Marathon and Mr. Sharma hope to see you all there!

Featured image credits to NN Dance Marathon