Submitted by Northwestern News

Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM) has announced Chicago-based Compass to Care as its primary beneficiary for 2021.

The only U.S. organization focused solely on providing travel assistance for children with cancer, Compass to Care helps families by removing the stress of planning a trip and traveling with a child who is ill and gives hope for their child’s cure from cancer.


Families who receive grants from Compass to Care, are predominantly from Illinois and Iowa, and have a child under 18 who is in an active cancer treatment regimen and needs to travel at least 60 miles to access care.  

NUDM’s financial donations will provide support for 100% of the children with cancer who meet the organization’s beneficiary profile. Compass to Care will also be able to hire a full-time development officer and create an integrated marketing communication program, initiatives which will help Compass to Care continue to support children for many years to come.

NUDM is one of the largest independent student-run philanthropies in the country, raising more than $1 million for its beneficiaries in each of the past 10 years. The most recent succeeded in exceeding the $1 million fundraising goal, despite the cancellation of the 30-hour dance weekend due to COVID-19.

Many deserving charities submit remarkable applications to be NUDM’s primary beneficiary. After an intensive process, Compass to Care was selected unanimously by NUDM’s Executive Board. For the 24th consecutive year, the Evanston Community Foundation will serve as NUDM’s secondary beneficiary, funding a variety of local grants to deserving individuals, families and organizations with the goal of helping Evanston thrive.

Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, Compass to Care was founded by Michelle Ernsdorff May, who watched her parents face overwhelming hardship in getting her to and from her own cancer treatment as a child. She never wanted a full tank of gas to get in the way of another child accessing lifesaving treatment. Through its Access Life Program, Compass to Care supports families who have a child with cancer through assistance that can include funding for airfare, bus fare, car rental, gasoline, lodging, parking fees, taxi fees, tolls and train fare.

“I am unbelievably excited to partner with Compass to Care,” said Ayesha Goswamy, one of the NUDM 2020 executive co-chairs. “Compass to Care ensures that each child’s journey to cancer treatment is possible. This year, we wanted to choose a cause that our dancers had not interacted with in the recent years of NUDM. This population is disproportionately affected by the global situation, as getting access to treatment is even more difficult for at-risk children fighting cancer. No child should go without care due to finances or being too far away from the best care.” 


In addition to funding various Compass to Care initiatives, NUDM is excited about the service opportunities Compass to Care has to offer. Northwestern students will have the opportunity to participate in on-campus service events, such as pairing Compass to Care heroes with Northwestern students to allow these brave children to be Wildcats for the day. Some service opportunities can also be done while social distancing if necessary. 

“We feel grateful to be able to shed light on this relatively unknown burden,” said Cami Steppe, NUDM 2020 executive co-chair. “Through our partnership, Compass to Care will no longer have to turn away any child seeking financial assistance to get to their treatment.”

The 47th annual NUDM will be held March 5 to 7, 2021, on the Norris University Center East Lawn, 1999 Campus Drive on the Evanston campus. Donations can be made to NUDM 2021 online.

This year’s NUDM beneficiary reveal event was sponsored by Leadership’s Calling®, a comprehensive leadership learning program for C-level executives, business owners, managers at all levels, high-potentials and individual practitioners from all types and sizes of organizations representing varied industries and professions. The overarching goal is to build leadership capacity among a small, diverse group of participants so they can consciously and with intention make a positive, lasting impact on the lives of people and on the performance and success of the organizations they serve.