By Jordan Lappin
As we begin nearing the holiday season and Giving Tuesday, we are starting a blog series to highlight the incredible organizations that we are partnered with at Triangle Cares. This week, we are highlighting the amazing work that takes place at GiGi’s Playhouse!
Down syndrome remains the most common chromosomal condition diagnosed in the United States. Each year, about 1 in every 700 babies are diagnosed with Down syndrome. Despite these staggering numbers, down syndrome is the least funded chromosomal disability in the United States. GiGi’s playhouse was created by Nancy Gianni in 2003 after her baby was born with down syndrome.
“About an hour after my daughter GiGi was born, the doctors suspected she had Down syndrome. Panic was welling up inside me but I was afraid for anyone to see it. As soon as my husband and I made eye contact I said, “if anyone can handle this we can.” I knew we were going to get through this together. Don’t get me wrong – we were petrified! I can not even begin to tell you the total fear and devastation I felt. Everything they were telling us about Down syndrome was so negative! Suddenly no one had eye contact with me anymore, they kept the door to my room closed and they kept sending in the clergy! If this was happening to us already what was life going to be like for our kids? I was so afraid to bring her home and start this “new” life. I remember when people first came to visit. There were hugs of sympathy not congratulations. They would tip toe towards the bassinet and seemed afraid to look inside to see what she would look like. Then when they finally mustered up the courage to look they saw this beautiful little baby and they were shocked! They always exclaimed “Oh my gosh! She is adorable!”
I really don’t know what they were expecting to see but finally people started to realize she was just a baby. One night when Gigi was a toddler, I made a promise to her that I would change the way the world looked at a person with Down syndrome; that I would help people understand that she and all of her friends were so much more than a diagnosis. With the help of people like you and the Playhouses across the world, that promise is being kept – not just for GiGi but for all our children.”
Thanks to Nancy Gianni, GiGi’s playhouse is the only network of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers with over 56 brick and mortar locations across the United States and Mexico. The mission of GiGi’s playhouse is clear: to change the way the world views Down syndrome and to send a global message of acceptance for all. Every day, GiGi's provides free life-changing therapeutic, educational, and career training programs for 30,000+ individuals of all ages who have down syndrome. These programs include teaching fine motor skills, gross motor skills, social skills and language, and career skills.
Jordan Hannan and Jordan Lappin