About GiGi’s Playhouse
The first GiGi’s Playhouse was founded in 2003 by Nancy Gianni, in Hoffman Estates, IL. Since then, it has expanded to 54+ different locations including one in Raleigh, NC founded in part by Michelle Pfeiffer, who is the current president. Michelle and the other founders of Gigi’s Playhouse wanted to create a loving environment for children and adults with down syndrome that could provide a multitude of classes and resources. In addition, GiGi’s Playhouse works to raise awareness around Down syndrome and show others that people with Down syndrome are more alike than different. Creating a place like this was especially important to Michelle, as she has a daughter with Down syndrome and helpful resources in the Raleigh area were scarce before GiGi’s.
GiGi’s Playhouse offers dancing, music, fitness, yoga, art, socialization, tutoring, speech, and gratitude programs. There are programs offered for all ages, including offerings for mothers expecting a child with Down syndrome. Some programs are virtual which allow for people from all over the state to attend, while others are in person.
Generation G Youth Board
At GiGi’s Playhouse, they have a board of volunteer teens who are passionate about GiGi’s. Their goals are to build awareness, to serve as program volunteers, and to support fundraising. They achieve these goals by holding community events like Car Washes and Bingo Nights, as well as hosting the High Five Challenge events at local universities to educate the community about Down syndrome. Board members also have a greater responsibility within the Playhouse, as they co-lead programs and host events such as Fall Fest. In addition, each board member must volunteer at least 30 hours a year, and the board as a whole averages over 300 hours annually.
The Future of GiGi’s Playhouse
Next June, GiGi’s Playhouse is moving from Raleigh to the Walker Building in the new Downtown Cary Park area. This will allow more space for classes and tutoring, as well as giving GiGi’s Playhouse access to the retail businesses and new park in Downtown. When GiGi’s Playhouse in Raleigh was founded five years ago, it provided help to 300 families. Now, it helps over 800 families and is continuing to grow.
Volunteers can help out with any of the amazing programs GiGi’s Playhouse provides. The commitment and work you will be doing will vary depending on the program. You can also volunteer in an administrative or general role, for example, marketing or writing a blog. Another way you can volunteer for Gigi’s Playhouse is volunteering for an event, for example, helping with decorations or food and beverage.
I had the opportunity to volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse recently at their Gratitude Program. Seeing the smiles from the participants as they were greeted by the volunteers, who they call friends, warmed my heart. GiGi’s has created a powerful community for those with Down syndrome and for the volunteers lucky enough to experience the love showcased there.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please click this link:
Jordan Hannan and Jordan Lappin