Recently I attended the annual gala for Gigi’s Playhouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Gigi’s Playhouse is a resource / achievement center for those who have Down syndrome. Gigi’s was founded in Chicago 11 years ago by a mom who has a daughter that also has Down syndrome. Since then there are Gigi’s Playhouses all over the nation that have followed their model.
The location in Des Moines will have their 5th anniversary in May of this year. In December, their new location was opened in Windsor Heights. This is a beautiful facility with a gym, two play areas, kitchen, and classroom space. There are activities for all ages, from a new parent support group to a social gathering for adults on Friday nights.
When my daughter was born over 21 years ago, Gigi’s Playhouse did not exist, nor was there a support group for parents who had a child with Down syndrome. I was on my own. To fast forward to 21 years later when I attended the grand opening of our new location and saw babies, toddlers, children, teens and adults with Down syndrome all celebrating was astounding. It was extremely powerful to see the dramatic change of what it is like today for a new family, versus what I had personally experienced. How far the community of those concerned with Down syndrome has come!!!
Today, the groups and activities at Gigi’s Playhouse are numerous. To walk through the doors of Gigi’s Playhouse feels instantly like a place where a loved one with Down syndrome and their friends and families belong. Just one look at the expressions on the faces of those who come to Friday Friends, the adult social group, and the look of joy and excitement is obvious on their faces as they arrive!
There is also math and literacy tutoring available. All of the programs that are offered at Gigi’s are available to the families free of charge. Most all of the activities are led by volunteers.
I am also the proud mother of the keynote speaker who spoke at the gala. My daughter, Annie, spoke before a crowd of over 500 people and communicated to everyone that having Down syndrome is exactly just how God created her. I have attached a video of her below. Enjoy!
Annie’s speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2egVI4GSR4
Gigi’s Playhouse: http://gigisplayhouse.org/desmoines/