Every parent has probably observed a child losing touch with friends as different sports interests, clubs, activities or going to a different school take people in different directions. As children grow up, most make new friends in those new activities. Sometimes, however, it is not that easy. A “lost” friend is one who may not be found again or even replaced with a new friend. GiGi’s Playhouse has become a gathering place where old friends can reconnect and new friendships don’t just stay “in house,” but extend into the community.
Lynn Tuttle is watching this happen. We are so grateful to GiGi’s Playhouse for the opportunity to make such wonderful new friends. Emily was participating in a Special Olympics qualifier at the Naval Academy when we saw two Severn School students who volunteer at GiGi’s. It warmed our hearts when they showed such excitement to see Emily. Their smiles and hugs truly made Emily feel loved when she saw these familiar faces outside of GiGi’s Playhouse walls.
But this isn’t the only connection between GiGi’s and the community. At a Teen Tastic “Mamma Mia” sing along night, Emily met an Avid student who came to fill some community service hours. After talking, they realized they both go to Broadneck High School together. Nezayja, Emily’s new BHS friend, had such a great time at GiGi’s, she is there hanging out almost every Teen Tastic night. Now when Emily sees Nezayja at school, she knows she has a friend who really cares about her.
Not only do our kids benefit from GiGi’s, but so many of their peers do too. Emily and Laila Brown (one of Emily’s BFFs) went to school with a young girl named Rose who was always so kind and a nurturing friend to them. Rose’s mom told me that it’s hard to find friends Rose feels comfortable around. I told her that GiGi’s would be a great place to come and volunteer. She brought Rose to a Teen Tastic night and it was a great fit for Rose who has now volunteered many times.
Chris Brown and I often talk about the other kids that Emily and Laila went to elementary school with and wonder how they are doing. You lose touch with many of them because everyone has different activities and schedules. I was really surprised one night at GiGi’s when I saw a young girl named Payton. I hadn’t seen her since she and Emily were in first grade together. Payton told me that night that she played soccer for BHS and had just signed on to play soccer in college. Her mom Fran and I saw each other at BHS Dance Concert a few weeks later. Fran told me that Payton plays soccer on the same night that Teen Tastic meets. Payton never wants to miss soccer but after her visit to GiGi’s she asked to sign up again and would miss practice in order to do so.
Payton told her mom she didn’t know what to expect but found new friends from other schools besides our wonderful kids. She told her mom it was so nice because it was an atmosphere of friendship, where everyone could be themselves with no judgement. When Emily was in kindergarten she had more friends than my two boys did but as she got older those friends drifted away. GiGi’s allows these teenagers to come together in a loving environment that shows many of the teens in our community that our kids are more like them than they know. Instead of seeing them in school at a distance, at GiGi’s they are given the opportunity to do activities up close and truly get to know one another. It shows that authentic friendships are being developed at GiGi’s Playhouse and growing out into our communities.
I really believe that for many of our younger GiGi’s Playhouse participants, growing up in their communities will be different. GiGi’s brings friends together rather than letting them drift away.
By: Lynn Tuttle