The 43rd annual Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM) began at 7 p.m. on March 3, and concluded at 1 a.m. on March 5 – a 30-hour marathon to raise money for charity.

NUDM 2017’s primary beneficiary is Chicago-based GiGi’s Playhouse, the only nationwide network of achievement (learning and healing) centers for children and adults with Down syndrome.

Deeply touched by the experiences, NUDM 2017 Executive Co-Chairs Jennifer Halpern and Ian Pappas have declared Dance Marathon the first “Generation G” (GiGi) college campus.

“We want to promote a culture of acceptance, kindness, and generosity of everybody, of every ability, not just this year, but going forward,” said Executive Co-Chair Ian Pappas. “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.”

GiGi’s Playhouse serves more than 30 different communities throughout the U.S. and Mexico, benefitting more than 25,000 individuals with Down syndrome last year with free, life-changing therapeutic and educational programs and a strong, personalized support system.

Dance Marathon’s fundraising will support three GiGi’s initiatives.

“We will fund expansion of its Amina Grace speech and language program and GiGi’s fitness programming, and we will help launch the pilot Mobile Playhouse program, which will allow GiGi’s to be even more accessible to underserved neighborhoods,” said Ms. Halpern.

Since 1975, NUDM has raised more than $18 million for more than 30 different charities.