A Preview of NOVAdance 2023


Oliva Pasquale/ Villanovan Photography

A B+ superhero driving through campus.

Lauren Armstrong, Staff Writer

Year after year, students fill the Jake Nevin Field House for 12 hours full of dancing, singing, playing and fundraising for the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation through NOVAdance. The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation is named after Andrew McDonough, who fought his battle against leukemia for 167 days before passing away on July 14, 2007. McDonough was a soccer star from Wilmington, Delaware. His blood type was B+, which quickly became his motto and mindset throughout his fight. “Be Positive” represents how Andrew lived his life, and now serves as inspiration and the backbone of the NOVAdance organization.

On February 24, 2023, NOVAdance held their annual B+ Ball at the Villanova Inn. Students, professors, alumni, family and heroes and their families came together to recognize the hard work and dedication to the cause, as well as  raise awareness for the organization. Through silent auctions, live auctions and the 50/50 raffle, money was raised for the B+ Foundation. Those in attendance heard beautiful stories and testimonies from the Matz and Henry families, as well as from Hugh McLaughlin III, the program director for the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation. 

There was not a dry eye in the room after B+ Hero Ellie Matz spoke at this year’s event. Ellie is 14-years-old, and was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of five. On campus, Ellie is paired with Alpha Chi Omega and still comes to campus often for events, parties, fundraising events and the annual dance marathon. Ellie recalled how, before she was diagnosed, she would constantly lose her appetite, her stomach and elbow would always hurt and she would wake up with a fever every night. After experiencing this, her parents took her to get blood work done, as well as exams done on her stomach and elbow. Instead of being able to go home and play with her sisters, Ellie was rushed to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and she was there for two weeks before being allowed to go home. For eight months, Ellie had to receive intensive chemotherapy. After those first eight months of treatment, Ellie was moved to long-term treatment, which consisted of treatments once a month and spinal taps once every three months. Ellie finished this treatment on March 13th, 2017, and this year she will be celebrating her sixth year of being off treatment for her leukemia. 

“Being paired with Alpha Chi Omega helped so much,” Ellie told the audience. “We came to Villanova for parties, to play games, eat junk food and gain lots of attention from the sisters. The B+ Foundation gave me and my sisters a way to feel supported and special, even during the hardest parts of treatment”. 

Following Ellie’s speech was that of Kate Henry, the mother of NOVAdance’s Forever Hero, Blair. Blair passed away at the age of three from brain cancer. Blair was paired on campus with Delta Gamma, and was loved and adored by the entire NOVAdance community. Her mother recalled finding a note written to Blair and read it outloud to the audience. 

“Dear Blair, you are not afraid to be yourself,” the note said. “To live your true self always, no matter your circumstances. We find that exceptional and inspiring. Your vibrant expression of yourself and who you are shines so bright that it ignites a light in others. You light a fire within us, you inspire us so fearlessly to be who we are, to dance in the rain, to live our lives out loud. Thank you for teaching us what it means to believe in your brilliance. We hope you continue to share your light. Love, your NOVAdance family.”  

The same day the Henry family was contacted about being paired with NOVAdance and Delta Gamma, was the same day that Henry and her husband, Mike, had to make the impossible decision to take Blair off treatment. Blair was able to spend an incredible seven months with Delta Gamma and NOVAdance, being allowed the freedom to be a kid for the last months of her life. 

McLaughlin came to the B+ Ball to share how impactful the work of NOVAdance and the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation truly is. He shared that, in 2022, the organization raised and sent out more than five million dollars to support families and children in need. From helping to pay for gas money to get to and from doctors’ appointments to helping remove mold from homes so that children could rest without the risk of getting more sick, this money is being used to make a difference in the lives of these families. 

He shared the story of Davi, a young boy from Brazil who needed to travel to North Carolina with his mother in order to get surgery to remove his tumor. From arriving in the United States on Monday, to needing the surgery on Friday, the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation was able to raise the $100,000 the family needed in order to help Davi, and the surgery was a success. The hospital was able to remove the entire tumor, and Davi was able to travel back home to his family and live his life like a kid. The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation is the largest provider for families battling childhood cancer in the nation, and NOVAdance is proud to be part of this fight. 

This year’s dance marathon is on Saturday, March 18 and will be from 10 a.m to 10 p.m. NOVAdance, as well as a multitude of organizations on campus, is blessed to be paired with its very own B+ heroes. The NOVAdance B+ Heros are Lilly, Frankie, Ellie, Sebastian, Blair, Jack, Rebekah, Jibby, James, Tony, Harry, Danny, Correll, Christos and the original forever Hero, Andrew. Everything done for NOVAdance is “For The Kids,” which means the world to the families involved in this fight against childhood cancer.