Acceptance in Action: GiGi’s Playhouse 2016 National Conference

Taking action and changing the world together!

GiGi's Playhouse

November 4th & 5th GiGi’s Playhouse welcomed 250 team members representing 39 Playhouses and start-up groups, as well as representatives from more than 15 corporate sponsors and partners, and even board members of local community foundations; together for the “Bigger, Better Stronger Together” Leadership Conference in Schaumburg, IL. WOW!  Click HERE to learn more about the amazing weekend.

For us, a huge highlight is to be able to recognize Playhouse’s who are leading the way in their communities and inspiring us all in the GiGi’s Playhouse network.  Help us cheer on the 2017 GiGi’s Award Winners!


GiGi's Playhouse  2016 National Volunteer of the Year

We have said many times before that the staff in the playhouse is truly the heart of it all.  Well, if they are the heart, then the blood that pumps through its veins would most certainly be our volunteers. For this year, we have two incredible women winning this award… Erin Alexeff and Kim Fennell from GiGi’s Playhouse Cleveland! These two women, who are Recreation Therapists and also best friends, came to their first Orientation in February and basically haven’t left the Playhouse since.  As Program Coordinator and Volunteer Coordinator, these two jumped right in, and their passion, advocacy and time are unparalleled. They came to GiGi’s not having any family members with Down syndrome; now they have a lot!


GiGi's Playhouse  Shining Star

A Shining Star Award is for a Playhouse Staff member who really knows how to “Get It Done”. They truly stand out in the Playhouse network.  Our 2016 Shining Star is…. Kristen Sweet from GiGi’s Playhouse Twin Cities! Kristin continues to step up as a leader in her playhouse and across the network. This veteran runs a tight ship, she is an innovator and leader, relentlessly crafting new ways of serving her families and community better. On top of all that, she continually volunteers to participate in nationwide efforts, including the Network Voice team for the IT initiative, literacy pilot and more. Congratulations Kristen!


GiGi's Playhouse

Shooting Star

This award is given to a Playhouse startup location that demonstrates exceptional enthusiasm and potential as they work toward their grand opening.  Our 2016 Shooting Star Award goes to…. GiGi’s Playhouse Rochester! Rochester is honored with this award based on their ability to quietly amaze us. They make it all seem so effortless! They resourcefully find the resources they need across our network, deep in the portal and their community – from donors to documents and mentorships, Rochester demonstrates enthusiasm, persistence and figures it out! We’re all looking forward to your opening in January!


GiGi's Playhouse Rising Star
This award is given to a Playhouse that has opened in the past year and has had an outstanding start. With a keen demonstration of the core value “Believe”, we are proud to announce our 2016 Rising Star is…. GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh!  Raleigh has an uncanny ability to bring fundraising dollars in the door and build community relationships. Raleigh is also an innovator and an outstanding partner on countless initiatives that have already been shared with peers all across the network.




GiGi's Playhouse

Neutron Star

Neutron stars are powerful but are often difficult to see.  In the GiGi’s organization, the Neutron Star is a location that leads from behind, quietly packing in all the tools and resources to do (almost) everything right. This humble location for 2016 is….GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne! Fort Wayne demonstrates unwavering BELIEF in the GiG’s mission and has a way of leveraging all of GiGi’s tools and resources to take them all to the next level.  As an example, even though they just opened in January this year, they already launched GiGiU and have had 10 graduates! It’s worth taking notice of this quiet star!



GiGi's Playhouse Star Struck
We’re star struck when we are in awe of someone, and so we grant this award to a team that has demonstrated outstanding IMPACT to their community.   This year we are Star Struck with…. GiGi’s Playhouse New York City!  This team has been innovative in their approach to reaching an underserved population in their area by piloting GiGi’s signature programs at a satellite location.  Their ‘Summer Adventures’ programming also saw teens exploring New York City where they built life-long friendships, lasting memories, and essential skills for independence.  With every passing year that they are open, their value and impact to the community continues to shine through!


GiGi's Playhouse Super Star
This award is given to a Playhouse that is continually used as an example of the way to do things right in so many ways.  Our 2016 Super Star is… GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix! The Phoenix team is a group of outstanding mentors that truly demonstrate the core value of “Locally Concerned, Enterprise Minded.” Like many great leaders, they are self-aware and humble, not afraid to share when things are not always as perfect as they might seem. But that’s what makes them so effective, as they are hungry to continuously achieve their Best of All and share as much as possible for the betterment of the network as a whole!


GenerationG Hollywood Star
This final award gives special recognition to a Playhouse or person that just simply needs their own category. This year’s Hollywood Star is being presented to a Playhouse that has navigated many challenges over the last few years and has come out of it a strong, reinvigorated Playhouse!  The staff and board have worked hard together to overcome multiple leadership changes and other challenging dynamics.  Over the last year they have successfully implemented a strategy to increase fundraising, increase their impact in their community and deliver top notch, purposeful programs to their families!


Let’s here it for these amazing STARS!!! We are so proud to work along side you all, sharing GiGi’s Playhouse core values and the Generation G mission!

Leading up to our evening of celebrating & dancing we all enjoyed two days of learning, growing, & networking.

The 2016 Conference featured topics and trainings on subject matters including program participant engagement, new program roll-outs, literacy and math tutoring, healthy workplace relationships, training on new financial systems and CRM technologies, strategies and resources for grant writing, media relations, corporate partnerships and large donor cultivation; leveraging a national brand, board succession, and more!

GiGi's Playhouse

Please check out all of our 2016 Conference pictures HERE

Comments from attendee’s

“It is not just learning about new programs that will benefit all of our participants, it is about the National movement towards making lives better. Not just children and adults with Down syndrome but kids of all abilities. It is inspiring to see that there are so many people, all around this country that work hard every day to make our entire GiGi’s Playhouse Network stronger, to make that lives of our children better.”

“We are sad the #GiGisConference2016 has concluded, but we are excited to bring home a wealth of knowledge and inspiration!”

“39 Playhouse locations were in attendance this year and all were sharing stories of how we are collectively changing the way the world sees Down syndrome. We are bringing back ideas to enhance our free educational and therapeutic-based programs, strengthen our presence in the community, and more! We cannot wait to see what year two will bring for GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne.”

“Our success depends on our ability to work in pursuit of a goal, and our ability to change our course of action based on a catalytic event. Change means a lot of hard work, but it is easier than not having direction. And I think we are EXCITED for these changes to take place. We are going to ACHIEVE our goals, and we are going to help our participants ACHIEVE theirs! This is going to be AWESOME!”

It would be a huge understatement to say we are excited to see how the GiGi’s Playhouse Network will #takeaction in 2017. We have a unified voice of acceptance. You will hear us coming and we are ready for you to join us!

Thank you to our 2016 Conference Sponsors

GiGi's Playhouse

This weekend once again proved we are Bigger, Better, Stronger….Together! Keep up the great work team.

GiGi's Playhouse


Recent Posts


Teeing it High and Letting it Fly: National/Hoffman Estates Playhouse partners with Inverness Golf Club 

At GiGi’s, our Playhouses offer purposeful, FREE programs that change our participants' lives. We also offer programs designed to take our participants outside of our Playhouse walls and into their communities....
gigis kitchen adult

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month  

Alzheimer’s is scary. We all know that.  Though there’s so much awareness surrounding Alzheimer’s, there’s still many misconceptions about the disease. When people picture Alzheimer’s, the image of an elderly...

It Takes a Village (Green): National Playhouse GFAC Wrap up! 

Children were everywhere.   It was 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 15 at NOW Arena/Village Green, and the competition was on!  It was time for the Kids Dash for Down syndrome...

Leave a Comment