With a mission to alter the way the world views a Down syndrome diagnosis, GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix was founded in 2015, as one of more than 50 brick-and-mortar locations across the United States and Mexico. Here, Jennifer Gage, Phoenix founder/president emeritus, discusses GiGi’s Playhouse’s upcoming “hybrid” fundraiser and the nonprofit’s goals for the coming year.
What is the mission of GiGi’s Playhouse?
GiGi’s Playhouse was created to change the way the world views a Down syndrome diagnosis and send a global message of acceptance for all. We do this through free educational, therapeutic, social, fitness and career-development programs for children and adults with Down syndrome.
How did the nonprofit get its start?
GiGi’s started in Chicago in 2002 when national founder, Nancy Gianni, had a baby with Down syndrome (GiGi) and realized there were no programs for her daughter. GiGi’s Phoenix opened in February 2015.
Are there any special fundraising events coming up?
GiGi’s Phoenix is hosting a hybrid gala at Dominick’s Steak House on Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. Ninety guests will enjoy a sit-down three-course dinner while at-home guests can tune into the event with Dominick’s delivery.
What is the most rewarding part of being involved with GiGi’s Playhouse?
For me personally as the founder of GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix, I have had the great honor of watching our children grow and thrive because of the amazing programs GiGi’s offers that are taught by incredible volunteers. Watching the babies turn into toddlers and then go off to school or watching our high school graduates attend our job training program, GiGi U, and their parents’ pride of their accomplishments inspires me every day to do more.
What is your goal for GiGi’s for the coming year?
Our goal in 2021 is to get our families back in the Playhouse safely. COVID-19 has been incredibly hard on our families. Because of the increased risk to the Down syndrome population, many will not return to school until a vaccine is readily available. This causes a lot of stress on parents who also have to work and possibly home school and provide therapies at home. We have seen a lot of regression in skills since the pandemic closures.
How can readers help your mission?
Although our programs are free to our families, they are not free to us. Please consider making a tax credit donation up to $800 for married filers or volunteering for one of our many programs.
To learn more about GiGi’s Playhouse or to donate, visit gigisplayhouse.org.