This is a shout out to all families, especially those on the Eastern Shore, who have loved ones of any age with Down syndrome and can benefit from the wonderful social and academic opportunities at GiGi’s Playhouse in Annapolis.
My name is Karen and I am the blessed grandmother of Jeremiah, a fabulous young man who is a 17-year-old, 11th grade student at Kent Island High School. Jeremiah enjoys school, playing sports, working out, listening to music, talking/texting on his cell phone, eating a variety of foods (especially if he can dip them in ketchup), guys nights out with his dad and his dad’s friends and straightening up the house. Jeremiah has a wonderful sense of humor and is very lovable; Jeremiah has a stubborn streak as well! As you can tell, Jeremiah is a lot like any other teenager. However, it isn’t as easy for Jeremiah as for many other teens to make and socialize with friends outside of school and to achieve academically.
This is where GiGi’s Playhouse comes into the picture! It was June and we were feeling a little down about the approach of yet another summer and the lack of activities for Jeremiah when I remembered that our friends mentioned a place called GiGi’s Playhouse where teens like Jeremiah could hang out and have some fun. I checked their web site then emailed; we were enthusiastically offered a “guided tour” of GiGi’s.
Jeremiah and I entered a clean, bright, comfortable looking space and were greeted by Judy, the Playhouse Coordinator, who was friendly and inviting as was Kim, a board member from Easton, and the parents we met that day. At first Jeremiah was reluctant to join a group of middle school aged children who were playing games but with Judy’s encouragement, he joined them and had a blast! As we left to head back to the Eastern Shore, Jeremiah repeatedly told me, “Mom Mom, that was really fun! Tell my mom and dad!!” We did indeed share this good news with his parents and the rest is history. During the summer, Jeremiah participated in the GiGi FIT Teen group which met twice weekly, once at GiGi’s and once at a fitness center in Glen Burnie; Jeremiah adored Coach Butch and the other assistants and kept fit all summer! On a Sunday, Jeremiah and his parents enjoyed a GiGi’s hosted – University of Maryland Tailgate Party – he was the lucky door prize winner! In September, Jeremiah attended a parent drop off, social evening with peers, Teen Tastic, and had a great time; the photos said it all. He will attend this monthly event regularly. Hopefully, we will be able to take advantage of some of the academic offerings in the future as well.
Jeremiah’s entire family is excited about this opportunity. His 91-year-old great grandmother was so impressed when we told her about GiGi’s that she immediately sent a donation. Great Grandmom Edith hopes to visit GiGi’s in the future.
GiGi’s Playhouse is exactly what we hoped to find for Jeremiah. Thanks to GiGi’s, he can spend time with peers, gain confidence and independence and blossom into a young man who can be his best! We love that GiGi’s will be available to Jeremiah for his entire life because there are activities from infancy through adulthood. It can be his home away from home – a safe place where he feels loved, accepted, and welcomed forever and a day!
If you have a family member with Down syndrome, I highly encourage you to give your loved one the opportunity to engage in the GiGi’s Playhouse experience!
Editor’s Note: Join us! Individuals with Down syndrome ages 16+ are invited to our Halloween Party on 10/26, 7-9pm at GiGi’s Playhouse Annapolis. RSVP on our calendar