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47th annual Dance Marathon goes virtual

Students will dance March 4-6 to raise funds for Compass to Care and Evanston Community Foundation
Dance Marathon celebrates a yearlong philanthropic effort. Photo by Justin Barbin

One year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 46th annual Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM) online, the 47th edition will kick off virtually at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 4 and will conclude at 10 p.m. Saturday, March 6.

Donations for this year’s event can be made online at

The event celebrates the culmination of a yearlong philanthropic effort to raise funds for primary beneficiary Compass to Care to support the financial and emotional needs of parents while giving children the very best chance of beating cancer.

Each day, 34 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer, translating into approximately 12,500 children diagnosed annually. However, most communities across the United States cannot support the teams of specialists needed to treat pediatric cancer from start to finish. As a result, children must travel to access treatment at specialty pediatric cancer facilities. In Illinois, there are only three metropolis areas that have hospitals offering cancer treatment for children: Chicago, Peoria and Springfield.

Parents often report that non-medical expenditures can be the most troublesome because, unlike medical bills, these non-medical expenses must be paid immediately and are rarely reimbursed. Compass to Care works to help relieve the added stress of travel expenses. For scheduled trips, a parent completes an online travel request prior to their departure to the hospital and Compass to Care then transfers funds directly onto the Global Cash Card one day prior to their departure. The parents use these funds to pay for all travel expenditures necessary to get from their homes to the hospital and back.

Evanston Community Foundation will serve as the Dance Marathon’s secondary beneficiary for the 24th consecutive year.

There are many ways to engage with and support the year-long student philanthropic effort to help reach Dance Marathon’s $1 million goal. Register for an online yoga workout or trivia night, get outdoors for the remote 5K/10K run or log into the live stream closing program.

Tickets to access the virtual events range from $90 for an all-inclusive access pass to $10 for single events. For the complete schedule and tickets visit the NUDM website.

“​We are so amazed by the dedication and perseverance the NUDM community has shown throughout this year, and we are so proud of our executive board, who has worked tirelessly to wildly reimagine this magical experience for the screen,” said Cami Steppe, one of the NUDM 2021 executive co-chairs. “This year has provided us countless challenges, and fundraising has been incredibly difficult, but we are proud to have shown how resilient this community is.”

“What we’ve done this year is so special. We’ve spent countless hours building connections with each other, engaging with the children at Compass to Care, and fundraising, all over Zoom. The absence of the 30 hours in the tent can ​never​ dim the magic that is NUDM,” said Ayesha Goswamy, one of the NUDM 2021 executive co-chairs.

Information and registration for NUDM 2021 public fundraising events is available at

Public events are as follows:

  • Trivia Kickoff Event
    Thursday, March 4, 7:45 p.m.

Participants can enjoy trivia with the team of their choice, connect with Northwestern alumni and make an impact by supporting this year’s beneficiaries Compass to Care and Evanston Community Foundation.

  • 5K/10K Virtual Race
    Saturday, March 6, 10 a.m.

Held virtually this year, participants can run from the comfort of their favorite path or treadmill. Those who enroll will receive a free NUDM and Compass to Care t-shirt. The full registration fee will be donated to the beneficiaries. Runners are encouraged to take photos and share on social with #hopetravels to @NUDanceMarathon.

  • Second City Performance and Closing Event
    Saturday, March 6, 8:30 p.m.

    The closing event of NUDM 2021 will feature a virtual comedy performance from Second City, and remarks by Compass to Care founder and CEO Michelle Ernsdorff-May and Northwestern President Morton Schapiro.

NUDM 2020 begins at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 4 and concludes at 10 p.m., Saturday, March 6. All events take place online. Donations and tickets for the virtual events are available at

A livestream of the event can be viewed online at

The beneficiaries

Compass to Care

Compass to Care supports families who have a child with cancer through assistance that can includes funding for airfare, bus fare, car rental, gasoline, lodging, parking fees, taxi fees, tolls, train fare and even long-distance travel. This year, NUDM and Compass to Care are working together to eliminate the monetary burden of cancer-related travel costs, reduce the stress of planning a trip and traveling with a child who is ill and give hope for their child’s cure from cancer. More information at

Evanston Community Foundation

The Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) is NUDM’s secondary beneficiary for the 24th consecutive year. ECF is an independent public charity that works to strengthen Evanston and surrounding areas. Since its founding in 1986, ECF has awarded numerous grants and endowment funds to deserving individuals, families and organizations with the goal of helping Evanston thrive now and forever as a vibrant, inclusive and just community. More information at

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