GiGi’s Playhouse, a non-profit Down syndrome achievement center, opened its 36th North American location this past Saturday in Annapolis with over 500 individuals in attendance. The celebration featured tours of the Playhouse, crafts, face painting, speeches from First Lady Yumi Hogan, GiGi’s Playhouse founder Nancy Gianni, Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce president Bob Burdon and a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“For years we have fought the stereotype that people with Down syndrome do not have potential. We are proving that stereotype wrong every day,” said Gianni, who traveled to Annapolis from Illinois to attend the grand opening celebration, “Down syndrome is not a disease, there is no cure, and we are not going away.”
Gianni attended the opening with the young girl whose name adorns every Playhouse location: her daughter, GiGi. GiGi was born with Down syndrome in 2003 and is the inspiration behind the creation of these Playhouses.
“When I grow up I want to be a dance teacher, I have great dance moves.” said GiGi Gianni during her remarks about how GiGi’s Playhouse has helped her become her “best of all” through their free educational and therapeutic programs. “Will you fight for me?” she asked the crowd. “I’d fight for you!”.
Maryland’s First Lady Yumi Hogan, who wore yellow and blue, colors representing Down syndrome support, indicated during her remarks that her and Governor Larry Hogan look forward to lighting the Government House in blue on World Down Syndrome Day (March 21) to continue their efforts of support and awareness for the Down syndrome community.
GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center focuses on achievement, belief, and confidence through free therapeutic and educational programs for children, adults and their families. The Annapolis Playhouse is initially offering four different programs and open play sessions and will later expand its program offering. Each program focuses on a specific aspect of skill development in the areas of education, social skills, speech and language skills, and fine and gross motor development. A full calendar of programs is available on the website at www.gigisplayhouse.org/annapolis.
GiGi’s Playhouse Annapolis has been in the works for more than two years after a group of local volunteers with a common dream began organizing the local initiative. Their countless hours of work, dedication and drive have moved this concept from a dream to a reality. Together, the group has raised over $250,000 in donations, organized and executed numerous events to raise awareness of GiGi’s Playhouse, developed and implemented a strategic plan to establish the Playhouse in Annapolis, and much more.