The 2017 Dance Marathon primary beneficiary will be Gigi’s Playhouse, which, according to a press release from NUDM, “provides free therapeutic programming and support to individuals with Down syndrome.”
The charity operates in the United States and Mexico and has served over 25,000 people. According to the Gigi’s Playhouse website, ”All programs aim to maximize self-confidence and empower individuals to achieve their greatest potential.”
The money raised by DM will support the charity’s speech and language program, which aids participants in reading and math. It will also help fund a pilot program called Mobile Playhouse which will attempt to make Gigi’s Playhouse more accessible to underserved communities.
“More than 400,000 people in the U.S. have Down syndrome, and we are beyond excited that NUDM has the opportunity to help improve the lives of these incredibly inspiring people,” Ian Pappas, NUDM 2017 Executive Co-Chair said in the press release.
This year’s Hero Program will include both children and adults, as Gigi’s serves people of all ages. Students will be able to tutor Gigi’s participants in reading and math, as well as participate in events like Gigi’s annual 5k and Gigi Fest, a “Family Fun Event” that includes food, games, a petting zoo and pumpkin painting.
The press-release said that because of the expansion of the hero program, “Together, students and heroes alike will be able to not only spend time learning from one another, but also to spread the message of global acceptance for people of all abilities.”
NUDM also announced that in order to make DM more accessible, it will be launching the NUDM Grant Program which “will be used to allocate funds to the personal NUDM fundraising efforts of lower income dancers, individual dancers and smaller teams through a streamlined application process.”
For the 20th year, the Evanston Community Foundation, which provides funding and philanthopic support to community initiatives in Evanston, will be DM’s secondary beneficiary. DM 2017 will take place March 3-5 on the Norris University Center East Lawn.
“When you realize the challenges people with Down syndrome face every day, like dealing with so much discrimination,” NUDM Executive Co-Chair for 2017 Jenny Halpern said in the press release , “you realize NUDM has the power to not only improve the futures of these people, but also to change the way the rest of the world sees their differences by spreading awareness and acceptance.”