Submitted by Northwestern University

COVID-19 might have stopped students from dancing, but it could not stop Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM) from raising a boatload of money for charity.

NUDM organizers announced today that the event raised $1,029,366.00 on behalf of Children’s Home & Aid and the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF). This was the 10th consecutive year NUDM broke the $1 million mark in funds raised.  

Thanks to the help of more than 10,000 unique donors, NUDM was able to present checks of $903,786.95 to Children’s Home & Aid and $100,420.77 to ECF. Beyond its financial impact this year, NUDM engaged in 689 service hours which included hosting educational events, mentoring partnerships with foster youth at the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Center and hosting campus “BUILD parties” of varying activities for Rice Center youth.  

“What we’ve done isn’t special because of the final total of funds we raised. NUDM is special because it’s a culmination of hours, days, weeks and months of hard work,” said NUDM 2020 Executive Co-Chair Eliana Scobey. “NUDM represents so much more than a number. It represents the passion we have for giving children the experience of family, love, trust and safety.”  

While the financial contribution, mentorship and year-long fundraising and service effort that NUDM 2020 engaged in compares to previous years, this year’s 30-hour marathon looked a bit different. Instead of occurring inside a tent at Norris University Center, the marathon occurred virtually, on NUDM’s Instagram (@NUDM), Facebook (@NUdancemarathon) and Twitter (@NUDM) pages due to a coronavirus related, University-mandated cancellation of the actual dancing for the first time in NUDM’s 46-year history.  

Many students, alumni and University faculty and staff were distraught that one of Northwestern’s favorite traditions was disrupted this year. The Dance Marathon is the culmination of more than 500 students’ hard work, and it is one of the nation’s largest student-run philanthropies.  

“By being here at NUDM, virtually or in-person, our community has shown that every child deserves a loving, supportive home,” said Rachel Cantor, NUDM 2020 Executive Co-Chair. “For many of the kids at the Rice Center, they have never had as many adults invested in their lives, caring about them as they do right now.”  

Shortly after receiving the NUDM check, Dance Marathon beneficiary liaison Lucy Clements from Children’s Home & Aid said, “Children’s Home & Aid’s partnership with NUDM has done so much immeasurable good for our children, our families and our community. In spite of the 30 hours being canceled, NUDM has already given the children at the Rice Child & Family Center something that lasts far beyond any dollars raised or event held. What our children have gained through the relationships the dancers have formed with them is never going away.”  

Over the course of the 30-hour virtual event, NUDM’s most popular social media content reached nearly 13,000 viewers, while NUDM’s cancellation message reached upwards of 15,000.   

“When the 30 hours were canceled, we knew we wanted to utilize social media to spread the love and positivity of NUDM,” said Jessie Paridis, NUDM 2020 Marketing and Media Co-Chair. “We received an outpouring of support from alumni, many of whom offered their help and advice.”  

Social media content from the virtual weekend included quotes from beneficiary speeches that would have been delivered during the event, special motivational videos from celebrities (including Northwestern alumni Stephen Colbert, Steve Carrell and Mike Greenberg) that would have been played throughout the marathon and segments of a 30-hour dance that would have been taught throughout NUDM.   

The virtual weekend also included videos of condolences and encouragement from past NUDM executive board members, spanning from 1997 to 2019.  

“It was a surreal experience transforming a social media schedule that took half a year to make in 48 hours,” said NUDM 2020 Marketing and Media Co-Chair Sam Schmaier. “But the experience was a true testament to the NUDM community. Our committee members, current executive board members and previous executive board members all jumped at the opportunity to help out.”  

While this was the 23rd year NUDM partnered with ECF as its secondary beneficiary, NUDM selected Children’s Home & Aid as its primary beneficiary in the spring of 2019, choosing to support foster care for the first time in NUDM history. Through its work with Children’s Home & Aid, NUDM aims to not only decrease the number of youth in foster care in Illinois, but foster happiness, hope, love and most importantly home, to enable children to reach their most confident and supported potential. In addition to fundraising and service, NUDM members said they were proud to bring awareness to the importance of having a supportive family during a child’s core developmental years.  

“Whether we walked into the tent or not, we can’t leave all we’ve done and learned behind,” said Scobey. “Remember the sense of belonging you’ve felt in this community and think about what we did this weekend, what we will do tomorrow and the next day to continue to foster change.”  

About Children’s Home & Aid

One of the leading child and family service agencies in Illinois, Children’s Home & Aid’s highly trained staff each year provide expression therapy, counseling and mentoring programs for more than 1,500 children in foster care. The staff also supports children by connecting them to the proper family placement, as well as restoring their hope and emotional stability. Ultimately, Children’s Home & Aid’s mission is to increase the rate of successful home placements for youth in foster care across Illinois, and the United States at large, in order to decrease the number of homeless youth.  

About Evanston Community Foundation

The Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) is NUDM’s secondary beneficiary for the 23rd consecutive year. ECF is an independent public charity that works to strengthen Evanston and its 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.