Having a best friend is natural… She has a best friend!!!

Having a best friend is natural… She has a best friend!!!

We often wondered what will it be like for Katelynn to make friends and build lasting friendships, like we wish for all of our children and ourselves… Katelynn had the privilege to attend a wonderful Early Childhood Program in Libertyville, IL this past year. The program was rich in acceptance, opportunity, differentiated teaching, and support; while that was all the intangibles we were excited about, a tangible relationship came with all that too- Katelynn’s best friend, Emma.

Emma and Katelynn became close friends quickly at the beginning of the year; we would read about their day together in Katelynn’s school journal and we were excited and happy Katelynn had a friend at school. Throughout the year we would get glimpses of their friendship at their birthday parties amongst their other classroom friends and were always inspired by the acceptance of others.

However, things became clearer this summer on a Sunday afternoon. We took our two girls to a local festival for a day of rides, games and treats. We bought our tickets and made a few ride selections when Katelynn’s friend, Emma, tapped Katelynn on the shoulder to say “Hi”! It was wonderful to see Emma, her parents and siblings out enjoying the day too! What happened next was when acceptance and inclusion moved from the school classroom to the community. Emma asked Katelynn if she would ride rides with her!! Katelynn of course, smiling ear to ear shouted, “Yes!”

Katelynn yelled to us, “Hey- I need my tickets!” We quickly dispersed our tickets and Emma and Katelynn spent the afternoon together riding rides, playing a few games, and chatting the entire time…they were smiling ear to ear.

katelynn malek 1

To describe what it felt like that day for Katelynn to have a best friend outside of the classroom and have a true connection with a peer is nothing short of gratitude and appreciation.

We are grateful for all of the relationships Katelynn has.  With each a connection and from each of those connections comes opportunity for growth, acceptance, tolerance, support, trust and humility…none of these can be defined in an IEP, in a school or in a classroom.

Having a best friend is natural, comforting, strong, and cherished; we are so happy for Katelynn- she has a best friend!!!

-Kristin Malek, mom to Katelynn

Down syndrome Awareness month

Down syndrome Awareness month

Tomorrow marks the start  Down Syndrome Awareness Month! Throughout the month of October and continuing through the rest of the year, GiGi’s Playhouse celebrates the Down syndrome by recognizing the potential that children and adults with Ds have. Through innovative and goal-oriented programs, offered at no cost to our families, GiGi’s Playhouse motivates our kids andContinue Reading

Here’s a sneak peak……

Here’s a sneak peak……

Hugs+Mugs has been busy preparing for Gigi Fest – All of our mentors and interns have been spending their time making and packaging our V-21 Cookies and testing our G-21 Gluten free version – working hard to guarantee a Gigi Fest debut.  But whats really been keeping us busy are our brand new items.  Continue Reading

Be The Change : A Message from Nancy

Be The Change : A Message from Nancy

Hello All! October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and is another chance to spread awareness, advocacy and inclusion throughout the community! At GiGi’s we celebrate individuals with Down syndrome and make people aware of their abilities and accomplishments everyday! But it is hard to celebrate when our friends with disabilities are being disrespected or even worse, bulliedContinue Reading

Karate Kickers working toward their Best Of All!

Karate Kickers working toward their Best Of All!

This past weekend, three of our teens from our GiGi’s Playhouse Rockford’s Karate Kickers class went to the 5th Annual Midwest Youth Programs Karate Invitational.  Nate, Dylan and Adam competed on September 7th and have made us so proud! The benefits of karate for people with Down syndrome are endless. Karate focuses on development of balance, coordination, discipline, focus, attention,Continue Reading

Our Staff keeps growing…..

Our Staff keeps growing…..

We had quite a week at the Playhouse and Hugs+Mugs.  The third class of GiGi U graduated Thursday evening. Hugs+Mugs mentors, Tim, Nicole, Kiera, Patrick, Brian and Christine, were on hand to show their support for the graduating class. Our Mentors remember how nervous they were when they were standing on the same stage justContinue Reading

GiGi Prep | Achievement of a whole new kind!

GiGi Prep | Achievement of a whole new kind!

GiGi Prep is a 6-week program for adults, which guides adults with Ds toward healthy lifestyle choices and goal setting. As the students strive to reach their highest potential, they prepare for future participation in GiGi University. Ramsan came to GiGi Prep last fall and ever since he walked through those doors he has hadContinue Reading