COVID-19 might have stopped students from the traditional 30 hours of dancing in the tent, but it did not deter Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM) from getting creative and raising well over a half a million dollars for charity this weekend.
This year, NUDM raised $674,395 on behalf of Compass to Care, which covers travel-related expenses for families accessing treatment at specialty pediatric cancer facilities. After a year of virtual fundraising and engagement, NUDM is proud to give its primary beneficiary the opportunity to grow and expand with the NUDM 2021 grant. NUDM’s second beneficiary for the 24th consecutive year was Evanston Community Foundation (ECF).
Creating change and bringing hope
“This year proved that NUDM is so much more than just a tent. NUDM is a community united to create change and bring hope, even under the most challenging circumstances,” said NUDM 2021 Executive Co-Chair Ayesha Goswamy. “Although our final total looks different this year, we are grateful to be able to provide children with hope, love and safety so that they can have a chance at the childhood that they deserve.”
NUDM 2021’s weekend event looked a bit different this year. Instead of occurring inside a tent at Norris University Center, the marathon occurred virtually on Hopin, a virtual event platform, with updates and announcements sent out via email, as well as on NUDM’s Instagram (@NUDM) and Facebook (@NUdancemarathon). While students, beneficiaries and the University administration alike would have preferred to be dancing for 30 hours and in the tent, the NUDM 2021 productions co-chairs were able to put on an engaging, event-based marathon that was spread out over three days.
“We worked just as hard in McCormick Auditorium to make sure we were ready for the livestream, and our emcees had a place to dance in a safe way,” said Jillian Korey, NUDM 2021 productions co-chair. “My responsibilities changed in many ways, but I am so excited about the way that we were able to adapt to the circumstances and still put on such a successful event.”
The event kicked off with opening speeches and trivia on Thursday night. Then, on Friday, dancers were able to enjoy some of the more classic NUDM traditions, like lockdown blocks and dancing to Sandstorm by Darude. Finally, on Saturday, NUDM was packed with activities, from a 5k/10k run, to a yoga class, to a performance by Second City, and more. The day concluded when the final total was revealed both on the live stream and on all social platforms.
Keeping traditions alive
Normally, President Morton Schapiro would give a speech in the tent to inspire dancers to keep going.
To keep this tradition alive, he spoke during the VIP reception to thank everyone for their support. The reception included parents of NUDM’s board members, as well as members of the beneficiaries’ leadership.
“I’m proud of the way that Northwestern Dance Marathon students have adapted to the challenges posed by the pandemic. They’ve remained passionately committed to making an impact in our community by completely reimagining this great tradition for this year,” said Schapiro. “I believe that their efforts, with the support from alumni and the Evanston and greater Chicago communities, will make a real difference for Compass to Care families and the Evanston Community Foundation.”
Changing children’s lives
After nearly a year of working with the executive board, Compass to Care was overjoyed to receive the final check, and to see all of the hard work done on both sides pay off. Shortly after receiving the NUDM check, Compass to Care Founder Michelle May said, “to be chosen as the beneficiary of NUDM is truly a dream come true for an organization like Compass to Care. All evidence shows that funding travel for a child to access cancer treatment has an impact on survival. The limiting factor we have always faced is funding to expand our reach. To have this dedicated group of students overcome every obstacle brought by the pandemic this past year and still make funding for our children and families a priority is an overwhelming honor that will change the lives of children with cancer forever.”
While this was the 24th year NUDM partnered with the Evanston Community Foundation as its secondary beneficiary, NUDM selected Compass to Care as its primary beneficiary in the spring of 2020. Through its work with Compass to Care, NUDM aims to allow Compass to Care to provide support for 100% of the children with cancer who meet their beneficiary profile. Compass to Care will also be able to hire a full-time development officer and create an integrated marketing communications program, both of which will ensure that the organization will be able to support children for many years to come.
“We are proud to be changing the way NUDM looks for years to come, and we know that our legacy does not just end tonight with this number,” said Cami Steppe, another NUDM 2021 executive co-chair. “We are looking forward to continuing to engage more of the NU community with NUDM in years to come.”