For our first resource of the week we are starting with GiGi’s Playhouse. GiGi’s Playhouse has served as a leader in support within the disabilities community. Many individuals and families of the Down Syndrome community in The Triangle have had the opportunity to know, love, and rely on GiGi’s Playhouse; When Covid-19 came into effect there was no exception.
The organization GiGi’s Playhouse was started in 2003 by Nancy Gianni when she came to the tough conclusion of the insufficient support for her daughter GiGi, who has Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome is the largest chromosomal derived disability in the U.S while also being the least funded. Nancy found that many families within the Down Syndrome Community felt the same absence of care as she did. GiGi’s Playhouse was started with the mission “To change the way the world views Down syndrome and to send a global message of acceptance for all.”. Today GiGi’s Playhouse has forty eight centers globally that provide educational, therapeutic, job training, and family support for individuals of all ages with Down Syndrome. We are so fortunate to have a GiGi’s Playhouse center in Raleigh.
What Makes GiGi’s so Special
Anyone who has been a part of the GiGi’s community can agree that GiGi’s Playhouse isn’t just a learning and support center for a multitude of reasons. GiGi’s Playhouse has been a leading advocate for inclusion within the disabilities community and ending the societal stigma that many with intellectual disabilities have to face. GiGi’s has a campaign called Generation G with the purpose of creating acceptance and inclusion for adults. GiGi’s Playhouse also wants to make an impact within the families of those with Down Syndrome. Many families are treated with sympathy for having a child with Down Syndrome. GiGi’s works diligently to end this stigma. GiGi’s Playhouse programs structure their social programs around self esteem and confidence growth. Individuals who are a part of the playhouse agree that the confidence they gain transfers to their family, school, and personal lives. GiGi’s community thrives because they build each individual up, and then watch the ripple effect it has in their lives.
GiGi’s Playhouse Continuous Efforts through COVID-19
There aren’t many who can say that COVID-19 hasn’t jeopardized their intended schedules this spring or summer. Whether it is jobs, school, sports, friends, vacations, graduations, or weddings each cancellation is upsetting and can ultimately affect our mental health. For many individuals within the disabilities community the cancellations of careers, therapeutic support, educational supplementation, and hobbies causes a very large struggle. GiGi’s Playhouse inferred this struggle and while knowing the importance of keeping their community safe still wanted to be there for their families. Currently GiGi’s Playhouse offers 28 live programs each week ranging and including all ages, including one on one therapeutic and educational support. GiGi’s also offers over 220 recorded programs to do anytime throughout quarantine. Instructors and volunteers at GiGi’s identified the importance of continuous support for their community during the pandemic. For many right now GiGi’s online programming is so important because it serves as consistency during such uncertain times.
Volunteers are Everything
GiGi’s Playhouse is entirely free and welcomes anyone of the Down Syndrome community. It is almost entirely run by volunteers and is inclusive to anyone who wants to become involved. Volunteers are a crucial and valued aspect of the Playhouse, and could not be run without them. Even right now GiGi’s is looking for volunteers who are passionate about helping those who are a part of the Down Syndrome Community. As someone who has volunteered at GiGi’s Playhouse I have gotten back more than I give, and have always walked away so grateful for the people who are a part of the Raleigh center.
Gigi’s Playhouse has changed the trajectory of the lives of so many and continues to bring happiness to thousands. We are grateful for the light they have brought to the disability community.