Macy’s gives $25k to Rock the U

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

A $25,000 donation from the Macy’s Foundation recently jump-started Rock the U dance marathon fundraising efforts to fight cancer. The donation will directly support research through the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

Rock the U Director Chelsea Baugh said the sum will push the group closer to its goal of raising $200,000 by the dance marathon on March 28. In the event, which is now in its second year at the U, students try to stay on their feet for 26.2 hours. The Associated Students of the University of Utah sponsors the marathon.

Last year students involved in Rock the U raised $93,000 for cancer research. Nu Skin gave a total of $35,000 to the cause, which Baugh said motivated other companies to contribute.

“Last year, as soon as (Rock the U) got the Nu Skin donation, a lot of businesses were more willing to give,” Baugh said. “Since (the Macy’s donation) happened so early in the year, it will help us fundraise with other businesses in the community.”

Organizers of the event hope to bring Macy’s total close to $40,000 by the time of the marathon, Baugh said. Other fundraising efforts of Macy’s department stores in Utah include allowing customers to make contributions to the HCF on their credit cards or having charitable shopping days,

Organizers hope to reach their ultimate goal with donations from local businesses from the dancers, who need to raise $200 to participate in the event. Baugh said she hopes to have 300 dancers participate — last year about 90 students completed the marathon.

“People can go anywhere to dance, but this event gives other people a hope and challenges some people,” Baugh said.

The Rock the U board has already raised $2,600 through smaller events this year, including offering haircuts at Redfest and holding a date auction at Crimson Nights.

Jessieann Hibbard, who is in charge of Rock the U donations, said the board is working to spread the word about the marathon through public announcements. Radio and television commercials should begin within the next month, and by Dec. 1, the Rock the U website will be running, allowing businesses to donate online. A video promoting and explaining the event will be sent to local businesses.

In January, the board will host a dinner at La Caille. Seventy-five percent of the dinner’s proceeds will be donated to the HCF. A mini dance marathon will also be held at Taylorsville High School, which has been raising money for the event all year.

Brooke Hathaway, development officer for the foundation, said she is confident Rock the U will meet its $200,000 goal.

“Last year I had high anxiety, but that was silenced (with the $93,000 total),” Hathaway said.

She said all of the money raised for the dance marathon funds cancer research at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, which relies heavily on private funding. Scientists at HCI use the money to answer questions about cancer. Each question typically costs about $50,000 to answer, Hathaway said, so expenses can get in the way of research.

Susan Sheehan, director of development for the foundation, said private dollars recently allowed researchers at HCI to find a way to identify a marker to predict Ewing’s sarcoma, a children’s cancer involving tumors in bones and soft tissues.

Sheehan said the American Cancer Society named this finding the second-most important discovery in 2006, out of about 1,800 projects reviewed.

Macy’s also funded the construction of a kitchen at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital in 2004, which provides a private space for families to cook meals together during hospital stays.

“They originally reached out to us when seeking out worthwhile causes,” Sheehan said. “They were motivated by our mission.”

Sheehan urged all U students to participate in the event. “Everyone has been touched by cancer and we want to change that reality,” she said.

Students can register to participate in the dance marathon at www.ustudents.com until March 21.

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Christopher Peddecord

Rock the U dance marathon received a $25,000 donation from the Macy’s Foundation to go toward research by the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.