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Northwestern's Dance Marathon 2017 to Support Gigi's Playhouse

Evanston Community Foundation named secondary beneficiary for the 20th consecutive year

  • GiGi’s, a national network of achievement centers for children/adults with Down syndrome
  • ECF provides funding for local grants for the common good and more
  • New grant campaign will help more students participate as fund-raising dancers next March


EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University students will have another opportunity to raise funds for two worthwhile causes during the 2016-17 academic year.

GiGi’s Playhouse -- the only nationwide network of achievement (learning and healing) centers for children and adults with Down syndrome -- will be the primary beneficiary for Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM) 2017.

The Evanston Community Foundation (ECF), which awards grants, delivers programs and brings people together around community issues, has been chosen as NUDM’s secondary beneficiary for the 20th consecutive year. Over the years, ECF has built a partnership with NUDM that supports the students’ goals for deeper engagement in the nonprofit community.

In addition to raising funds for two charities, NUDM 2017 also has announced a new campaign to ensure that more students will be able to participate as fund-raising dancers during the 30-hour spring marathon early next March.

“More than 400,000 people in the U.S. have Down syndrome,” said Ian Pappas, NUDM 2017 executive co-chair. “We are beyond excited that Northwestern University Dance Marathon has the opportunity to help improve the lives of these incredibly inspiring individuals.”

More information on NUDM 2017 is available online.


Northwestern University Dance Marathon funds raised for GiGi’s Playhouse will provide free educational and therapeutic programming to individuals of all ages with Down syndrome to build their confidence and promote continuous improvement. Through these programs, GiGi’s also strives to increase global acceptance of people of all abilities. NUDM’s gift also will help develop a pilot Mobile Playhouse program that will allow GiGi’s to be even more accessible to underserved neighborhoods. GiGi’s currently has locations in 30 communities across the U.S. and in Mexico and continues to grow. More information is available online.


Evanston-based ECF provides funding for local grants for the common good. The Evanston Community Foundation, celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016, helps Evanston thrive now and forever as a vibrant, inclusive and just community. The foundation builds endowments for current and future opportunities, fosters private philanthropy, focuses the impact of collective giving, finds solutions to community challenges, allocates grants and provides leadership training. To learn more, follow the Evanston Community Foundation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit

As NUDM’s secondary beneficiary since 1998, ECF will receive 10 percent of NUDM 2017’s net proceeds.


To increase financial accessibility and help Northwestern student dancers meet the $400 fundraising requirement, NUDM recently launched a new NUDM Grant Program Campaign.  

This grant will be used to allocate funds to the personal NUDM fundraising efforts of dancers who struggle to meet the minimum requirement, individual dancers and smaller teams of dancers through a streamlined application process, and allow them to participate in the 30-hour March dance marathon.

“We know that the University is constantly working toward increased inclusivity,” said NUDM marketing and media co-chair Katharine Currault. “NUDM is doing the same, so we thought this would be an amazing opportunity for faculty, administration and alumni to contribute to NUDM 2017’s beneficiary (GiGi’s Playhouse) while simultaneously making the Northwestern student experience more accessible to all students.”

The new campaign is designed as a crowd-funding campaign, so a donation of any size will help support dancers in need.

“We hope that financial reasons will not restrict any students from dancing with us in the tent next March (March 3-5, 2017) since NUDM is such a special part of the Northwestern experience,” added NUDM marketing and media co-chair Jackie Montalvo.

Campaign donations can be made online. More information on the new campaign is available online.


Now in its 43rd year, NUDM is one of the largest student-run philanthropies in the country, raising more than $1 million for its beneficiaries for each of the past six years. Since 1975, NUDM has raised more than $17 million for more than 30 different charities.

Following a year of fundraising that ended with 30 hours of marathon dancing in early March,

NUDM 2016 raised a total of $1,201,216 in cash and in-kind donations. As a result, a check for $946,740.52 was presented to Blessings in a Backpack, an all-volunteer network that mobilizes communities, individuals and resources to provide food on weekends for needy elementary school children across America. In addition, ECF received a check from NUDM for $104,193.39 -- which amounted to 10 percent of the net proceeds.

The NUDM’s 2016 Annual Report with the final total breakdown is available online.

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