By: Jenn Winslow
2019 began and I made a conscious decision that this would be the year of “Me.” I vowed to focus on myself (for a change) so I asked – What brings me joy? I started to eat healthier, exercise, sleep more, say “no.” All great things and steps in the right direction but still, something was missing….
Having worked in Special Education in Anne Arundel County for 8 years I have had the pleasure of meeting some pretty amazing souls – children and young adults with Autism, Down Syndrome and other “labels” that do nothing to describe their many wonderful qualities and accomplishments. Earlier this year it seemed my social media was flooded with posts from former students, their families, and colleagues about a neat new place in Annapolis: GiGi’s Playhouse. The universe was clearly sending me a message – this is what was missing.
Being a working mother of two active children, I do not have an abundance of time. I decided to sign up for a Volunteer Orientation and see what, if anything, I could do to become involved with this community of people I have come to love. I was extremely intrigued when I learned that GiGi’s offered programs and activities for participants 18 and older. Working with students in K-12 I have often wondered/worried “what comes next?” Being with adults would also allow me to maintain a line between my professional and personal lives. In the schools I am “Ms. Winslow” but I wanted an opportunity to be just “Jenn.”
One hour a week? Mentoring Interns in the GiGi’s office? Sure, I can do that no problem! GiGi’s is amazingly flexible – volunteer as much or as little as you like. I wasn’t expecting to be able to contribute much. But once I met the interns, I was hooked. One hour a week was not enough. So I started attending and helping to plan Fantastic Friends, the bi-weekly social gathering for adult participants. Nope, still not enough. I had found my joy and I was greedy for more.
My desire for even more joy brought me to a Luau at GiGi’s this past Friday. Dance-tastic is a dance party conceived and planned by GiGi’s adult participants and they certainly know how to throw a party!
Friday night for me was absolute pure, unfettered joy from start to finish. Dancing, singing, smiling from ear to ear. A shy new friend pulling me out of my seat to dance to his favorite song. Former students, and current friends, coming out of their shell and NAILING their hula and haka dances. Today I woke with aches and pains and exhaustion that can only come from a night of too much fun.
Trust me, it’s worth it.