Junior vocal performance major Emma Nossem will participate in her third Ball state Dance Marathon Saturday. Nossem will be dancing to support two friends she lost to cystic fibrosis and a lesser-known cancer. Grace Ramey // DN
Dance Marathon more than philanthropy for Ball State junior
It’s unusual to hear of an organization that is working toward not existing. A club that believes that if it really does its job, one day it won't be needed. This, however, is exactly the case for Ball State University Dance Marathon.
BSUDM raised $75,288.05 during its Day of Hope on Wednesday, surpassing the goal of $75,000, which originally seemed “overzealous” to junior Emma Nossem.
After a long day of excitement, encouragement and fundraising, Nossem was left without much of a voice to express the amount of hope it had given her.
During this week alone, the vocal performance major has been attending chamber choir rehearsals, Dance Marathon meetings and recruitment practice for her sorority, Sigma Kappa.
On Sunday morning, Nossem is expected to be on a bus, in her choir dress, ready to perform in Carmel with the Ball State Chamber Choir; however, just hours before, she will be participating in the 13.1 hour-long Dance Marathon.
“It is the most insane week of my life, but I have lost no motivation,” Nossem said.
Friends and family aren’t surprised by Nossem's passion and positivity, though. Her mother, Diane Nossem, recalls her daughter as having always been this way — the type of person who “wholeheartedly gives of herself to everyone she meets.”
“Sometimes she doesn’t realize how much of herself she gives away, and I feel like it’s my responsibility to replenish that for her when she forgets to do it for herself,” Diane Nossem said. “So sometimes I send a small gift or care package, sometimes just a text.”
Emma Nossem feels humbled by the amount of support that she is given and is reminded often that what she is doing is for a cause greater than herself.
During her senior year of high school, Emma Nossem found herself, along with the rest of her school, rallying behind fellow classmates Erin and Colleen Lusk. The sisters were diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, and Colleen's state was worsening.
Colleen Lusk was sent to Riley Hospital, and while she was fighting, Emma Nossem and her classmates were busy “painting the school in purple,” the color representing cystic fibrosis.
Colleen Lusk, however, died that week.
“She was a lot like me, she was just a little ray of sunshine that I was just so in love with,” Emma Nossem said. “She made an impact across many, many towns next to us just [by] being her.”
Whenever Emma Nossem gets a chance to visit her hometown, she does all she can to support Colleen and the Lusk family.
Her friends are currently in Washington, D.C. fighting to find a cure for cystic fibrosis, and Emma Nossem does her part by visiting the tree planted in Colleen Lusk's honor and helping #colleenonellen trend, in an attempt to achieve Colleen Lusk's goal of being on “The Ellen Show.”
“Helping Emma to understand her grief and to deal with death, Colleen's and others, has been a journey for us both," Diane Nossem said.
This Saturday, Emma Nossem will be dancing for Colleen Lusk, inspired by the fond memories that she has with her, and also for another friend she lost to a lesser-known cancer.
When Emma Nossem attended Blue Lake’s Fine Arts camp, she met a group of girls that she is still close with today, along with a special source of inspiration, Lauren Yates. The two shared a cabin and they immediately formed a bond.
“A couple years after we got out of camp, she got diagnosed with bile duct cancer, which is something you never hear about. There is not nearly enough awareness about it. In only three months she passed from it,” Emma Nossem said. “You take a step back and, like what if I only had three months to live, and I had no idea.”
Above Emma Nossem's garage are lights that are tinted green, the color representing bile duct cancer, for Yates. She also keeps purple ribbons for Colleen Lusk.
Yates and Colleen Lusk were the reason Emma Nossem's freshman year as a dancer at BSUDM was not “just going to this philanthropy” for Sigma Kappa.
After attending the event her freshman year, Emma Nossem was motivated by the students sporting positive, energetic attitudes and tie-dye shirts.
This year, she is on the morale committee and is also the dance commander subcommittee chair.
As dance commander subcommittee chair, Emma Nossem is in charge of the line dance. She creates choreography groups and works with the co-directors of the marathon to make up the line dance song.
She also decides who will be teaching the line dance to everyone during the event, and helps create a script for those people so they can teach it in a way that is relatable to everyone.
“While I have love for every other committee and I know we need all of them, for me, there is no other committee that I could see myself being on,” she said.
During the day of “hectic, controlled chaos,” as Emma Nossem refers to it, there are a variety of different activities for people to take part in, and different families from Riley Hospital are scheduled throughout the day to share their stories.
“We don’t sit down, as you know, but everybody kneels in respect for them,” she said. “Hearing their stories is an incredibly emotional time and even if I’ve heard them before, which I have, it’s nice to let people know why they’re there, especially if they are first-year dancers.”
Emma Nossem said there are three things that dominate her thoughts while participating in Dance Marathon: “pure passion, inspiration and happiness.”
“You never lose any of those three things the entire dance marathon, or at least I never do,” she said.
Emma Nossem said she's always amazed to see the amount of work people put into the event. She enjoys seeing each committee’s work come together to create BSUDM each year and is encouraged by the new faces that join the cause.
“You figure out all those things as you go along," she said. "It makes it so much more worth it and so much more intense as a person in a committee because you have something to fight for every single day.”
The fundraising continues throughout this week and especially during the marathon itself, but BSUDM is about much more than the money.
“This committee, this cause, has really helped Emma to feel like, although she can’t change the past, she can impact the future,” Diane Nossem said.
Everyone, from donors to dancers, plays an important part in BSUDM — even simply educating someone on what Dance Marathon is helps to further the cause.
Ball State Dance Marathon continues to help in the hopes that one day, its impact over the years could be so significant, it won’t be needed anymore.