A peek inside volunteering at GiGi’s Playhouse
“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
GiGi’s Playhouse is powered every day by amazing volunteers. People who are not always specially trained in specific fields, but have a heart and passion to help change the world and affect lives in their communities. They come to training, they learn from individuals with Down syndrome, families, and friends how to support! These generous givers of time and talents make up the over 150 thousand volunteer hours that GiGi’s Playhouse (across the globe) added up last year, delivering over 30 FREE purposeful & progressive programs to the over 100 thousand individuals who are benefiting from GiGi’s. WOW! Today we want to highlight a small portion of this mighty team and invite YOU to join us!
GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix shares about their Literacy Coordinator, Kim Cross.
Kim is kind, generous, and accepting of all! She demonstrates this every day that she is at the playhouse. She has put in 100’s of hours of volunteer time; always with a smile and willing to help out in any area. Kim recruits the Literacy Tutors and has done an amazing job in attracting “top notch” talent to serve our participants. She is “loved” by all at the playhouse; participants, staff, and volunteers. We are so fortunate that she chose GiGi’s Playhouse to offer her time and talent.
“I admit, when I first inquired to volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse, I was simply looking for something to do in my free time. However, upon meeting our precious participants, their dedicated families, and the many people who work and volunteer at GiGi’s, it became clear I wanted to do more and be a part of the overall effort. It is an honored to help in some small way, participating in their journey and promoting acceptance for all individuals. Knowing the importance of reading and communication skills in our society, I chose to dedicate much of my time to the Literacy Tutoring Program. I enjoy “behind the scenes” tasks, maintaining organization, working with other volunteers and most importantly, witnessing our participants as they build their self-confidence and communications skills through reading. Knowing our efforts will contribute to their success and provide greater opportunities is the ultimate reward.”
GiGi’s Playhouse Rochester shares about Madeline, a high school student giving her time and talent to GiGi’s.
She is an exceptional role model and is very dedicated to GiGi’s. She will do anything that is needed!
“I first started volunteering at GiGi’s playhouse Rochester this fall after my sister, Claire, attended a program & loved it. GiGi’s provides so many opportunities unlike any others in Rochester. My favorite program so far is the Cooking Club because it teaches life skills & the kids really enjoy it!”
GiGi’s Playhouse Madison is so happy to have Brenda join their team!
“I find the work I do with people at GiGi’s personally rewarding and appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow with them.”
From GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh we hear about the wonderful Rosemary and Cindy!
Rosemary Campbell is the Literacy coordinator in Raleigh, and demonstrates Generation G every day! Rosemary was introduced to GiGis because of her precious grandson Kendall who is 2 years old. Her passion to lead, teach and empower is so evident every time she is here. She wears many hats as a volunteer, she helps with LMNOP, Literacy and is always ready for a DIY project for our big events. We are super thankful for Rosemary’s dedication to our playhouse and spreading contagious joy!
“When I think of GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh an emotional reaction comes over me that is difficult to put into words. A warm feeling spreads through me because I know when I walk through the doors of the playhouse inclusion and love are always present. I will be accepted for me: not my looks, my age, my ethnic group, my disability or lack of disability, or my grandchild’s disability. This feeling radiates throughout all of the people who are part of GiGi’s. It is contagious and uplifting to just be in the presence of the children, parents and volunteers at the playhouse. GiGi’s has given me a place to express my love of teaching. Even after retiring with 38.5 years in public education I still am drawn to helping children and adults learn to read. The playhouse has been a wonderful organization for me to express that desire and learn from other professionals.”
Cindy Riley volunteers her time as the Raleigh Program Coordinator & a Literacy Tutor! Cindy came to GiGis after talking with a neighbor who helped start our playhouse. She found herself seeking a rewarding and positive volunteer role which lead her to our doorstep! Cindy has a generous heart, leading programs to spend time with our participants, always making sure she is spreading the word about GiGis and celebrating the big & small moments of growth.
“What I love about GiGi’s Playhouse is the welcoming and nurturing environment, the laughing and happy faces, how people positively support one another! Seeing how Mothers, Fathers, siblings, grandparents and important loved ones feel as a distinct feeling of belonging is quite evident for those who are in this particular environment. I love the dedicated and hard-working mothers who started GiGi’s Playhouse of Raleigh; they are doers, thinkers, and achievers of a better life for those they love and others.”
GiGi’s Playhouse Syracuse is proud to brag about their amazing volunteers!
Liz Gunther is a volunteer extraordinaire! Liz is never afraid to jump in on a task she is presented with. She has been known to drop everything and run to the Playhouse when she finds out there is a participant here. She loves them like they are her own children. The pure joy on her face every time she is in the Playhouse is incredible to see.
“I started at GiGi’s after meeting and falling in love with Melissa. I see her parents at church. I had stopped working and was looking for a place to volunteer after serving in a soup kitchen for years. Melissa’s mom told me about GiGi’s and I visited. I came back a second time, fell in love and the rest is history!”
Sarah Herrington is the fantastic leader of Leaps & Bounds! Sarah is Generation G by sharing her love for GiGi’s Playhouse and our participants with her daughter Emalee who is her assistant during Leaps and Bounds. Together they always provide a program that is engaging, exciting and a joy to all who attend! Sara has also helped out with Open Play and World Down Syndrome Day.
“I started volunteering after reading an article about Heather Rodriguez and her start with GiGi’s. While I didn’t know if I had anything to offer, her story gave me the courage to go to a volunteer meeting and offer up my time and strengths and see where that took me. Almost 2 years since then and I’m running a program that I put my heart into. GiGi’s is an outlet for giving, love and constant learning for my daughter Emalee and I.”
Donna Hurst, volunteers with Fantastic Friends and Gratitude Committee, always bringing a jolt of creativity! Donna’s ability to connect with our young adults is amazing. She is encouraging and positive and brings out their best of all every time she is with them.
“I chose to volunteer at GiGi’s for a variety of reasons. Several friends had suggested that it would be a great match for my personality and abilities, and I am always happy to learn new skills and share the skills that I have. I loved the playhouse from my very first visit. It was a place that I knew I would feel comfortable and enjoy spending time, but mostly I was eager to meet some new friends. I had recently relocated to Syracuse and I needed and wanted to become a part of something larger than myself and hopefully make a positive contribution. I am still unsure of exactly how I can best contribute to GiGis, but I certainly have met many amazing new people who are a wonderful addition to my life.”
Lori Kindon has hosted the Syracuse Playhouse LMNOP since the beginning! Lori can also be found helping with Backpack Buddies, literacy tutoring and brings along her wonderful husband to help at events. Lori’s compassion for her friends at the Playhouse is rooted in her own personal experience. She knows first-hand what our community needs and works to help them achieve those goals.
“Sixteen years ago, my friend, Katie Macco passed away when she was 23 years old. She was a beautiful young woman with Down syndrome that I had known for as long as I could remember. She was like a little sister to me. Her death was one of the most devastating times of my life. I couldn’t understand why she was taken from us so soon. One of our favorite things to do was to go to Friendly’s and get cheeseburgers, french fries, and orange soda. I have beautiful memories of her rocking and singing to my boys when they were babies, trying to get them to sleep or feeding them their bottles. Her giggle was silly and contagious. She is my angel! Knowing Katie is what inspired me to pursue a career in special education. She taught me all about compassion, kindness, love, and acceptance of this amazing population. She taught me that disability didn’t mean inability. Through her, I learned that EVERY person has something to contribute to this world. Katie would have THRIVED at GiGi’s Playhouse; if there was such a wonderful place when she was alive. She would have loved all the programs for adults and especially would have loved the babies and toddlers that visit the Playhouse. Katie is my inspiration for volunteering. I want to keep this amazing, purposeful, important place open and flourishing!”
GiGi’s Playhouse Fox Valley shares about one of their wonderful literacy tutors Audrey!
Audrey demonstrates Generation G on a daily basis inside and outside of GiGi’s. Audrey is involved in Special Olympics, Best Buddies, National English Honors Society, and her church group. She really puts herself out there and gives her all to each organization she is a part of. She takes on leadership roles and really strives to be the best she can be. She has been involved at GiGis since spring of last year. She started out tutoring one student and this year decided to open her heart to another student! Audrey has also recruited some friends to be tutors as well and at tutor training, she was awarded our Fox Valley Appreciation Award for being such a great helper! We are so happy to have Audrey here at the playhouse.
Audrey says, “I love volunteering at GiGis because the connections I build there always put a smile on my face. I look forward to going to GiGis every week because the community is so friendly there! I love seeing the progress of the students I tutor during each session and building new skills with them!”
We wish we had the space to call out every single volunteer who continues to help GiGi’s Playhouse change the way the world views Down syndrome but since we can not we want each and every one of you to know how valuable and important you are to our communities and lives! You are the change this world needs!
If you are inspired to take action and learn how you can volunteer at your nearest GiGi’s Playhouse, visit us HERE!