NOVAdance strives to dance for those who can’t

Mary Muldoon

About 10,380 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2015, according to the American Cancer Society, making pediatric cancer the leading cause of death by disease for children and adolescents in America. 

While this may only be a statistic to some, Joe McDonough, a father living in Wilmington, Pa., experienced this first-hand when his own seemingly healthy son, Andrew, went into cardiac arrest in January, 2007 after playing in a state championship soccer tournament.

Andrew was soon after diagnosed with Leukemia and, after fighting for 167 days, passed away.

While Andrew may have lost his battle, his father continues to fight in his name with the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation. The B+ Foundation, which is named for Andrew’s blood type and positive attitude, works to achieve three goals: to raise money to provide financial support to families of children with cancer as well as to fund childhood cancer research and also to help people remain positive and “Live Like Andrew” in the face of their disease. 

One of the ways McDonough helps spread the message and mission of the B+ Foundation is by visiting colleges and universities hoping to inspire young people to join the fight against pediatric cancer. That is exactly what he did in a meeting with the leaders of Villanova fraternities in May 2013. 

 McDonough managed to make a connection with one student who, from that moment on, decided to dedicate his time and effort to creating a large scale fundraiser that could make a difference in the fight against pediatric cancer.

“It was very easy, meeting with Joe, to know that this was something he was passionate about,” Mike Dolio, Villanova senior and former president of Sigma Nu, said. “When he told his story and told of the success of his foundation it made it something that I really wanted to bring to Villanova, get my fraternity involved in and expand to the entire Villanova Campus.”

After his meeting with McDonough, Dolio began reaching out to his fraternity’s philanthropy chair and friends who would consider getting involved, and less than a year later, Sigma Nu hosted Villanova’s first annual NOVAdance event.  

The event is a 10-hour dance marathon in which students from all over campus come together to dance, socialize, eat and play games to show their support for the cause. Participants are encouraged to stay on their feet for as many of the ten hours as they can as a way of showing their commitment to the organization as well as to “Dance for Those Who Can’t.” 

In the months leading up to NOVAdance, students are encouraged to organize teams, whether it be with a group of friends, a sports team or some other university group, and sign up on the NOVAdance website and  try to raise as much money they can by reaching out to friends and family members. 

Then in March, those teams can attend the event in order to see the face of the cause they have been supporting.

“Fundraising can be difficult, but it’s easy in the sense that you put in your credit card information or write a check and you move on,” Dolio said. “The other side is the actual event where you’re really showing your dedication to the cause and showing an interest by spending time with and interacting with the heroes.”

The “heroes” are children with cancer who are invited to come to the event. Last year, NOVAdance hosted seven “heroes” who attended the event and had a great time playing games and socializing with students. 

At the end of the night last March, Dolio and his committee of 12 who helped organize the event revealed the amount of money they had raised for the B+ Foundation through their efforts: over $68,000.

 “We met the goals we set and it was one of, I’d say, the most humbling experiences maybe of my life,” Dolio said. “Going from 12 people wrapped around a table in the Greek life office, to 342 total supporters, and over $68,000 dollars was just a huge transformation.”

After the success of last year’s event, Dolio and the committee in charge of putting the event together, now grown to 34 students, have been working hard to make this year’s event bigger and better.

NOVAdance 2015 is set for Saturday, March 21, and the committee is working to host 14 “heroes” at the event as well as exceed both the participation and financial goals from last year. 

Joe McDonough attended NOVAdance last year and plans to attend the event again this March.

“My son died of leukemia in 2007 and one of his closest friends was a senior at Villanova last year,” McDonough wrote. “Having him by my side as we introduced ourselves to the Greek community meant a lot to me. I was very impressed with the big hearts here at Villanova. They really embraced our “Kids Helping Kids Fight” Cancer message, and I’m hopeful that this is the beginning of a great partnership and long tradition on campus.”