Sarah Brown, President
Sarah is an attorney in Annapolis and ardent supporter of GiGi’s Playhouse. Sarah’s cousin, who is also her best friend, was born with Down syndrome and has motivated Sarah to find additional resources and programs so all individuals like her cousin receive the best education and support.
Becky Berger, Secretary
Becky was born and raised in Maryland. She currently resides near Annapolis with her husband and two children. Her Godson, Parker, has Down syndrome and his beautiful blue eyes stole her heart immediately! She feels blessed to be part of such an amazing group of people at GiGi's Playhouse Annapolis. Becky has a Bachelor of Science degree from Towson University and owns a medical billing company. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering at her kids' school and taking her rescue dog for walks.
Dee Brant, Treasurer
Dee, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland and now a full-time resident of Edgewater, outside of Annapolis has been in the accounting industry for more years than she cares to remember (or admit to!). A graduate of the University of Maryland with an Accounting degree from the Smith School of Business, Dee has been actively working with both for-profit and non-profit clients. After learning in 2017 that her first grandchild would be blessed with 21 beautiful chromosomes she discovered GiGi's Playhouse one day when researching Down syndrome and trying to learn as much as she could to help, not only her beautiful granddaughter, Rosie, but her son and his wife. Rosie, born in July of 2017, is not only a blessing and a joy but has inspired Dee to reach out to help educate and inspire others in regards to learning more about Down syndrome. Rosie continues to make Dee smile!
Amanda Finnis, Events Committee Chair
Amanda resides in Riva with her husband and two children Ainsley and Taryn. She has been involved with Down Syndrome Connect since she was pregnant and found out that Ainsley has Down Syndrome. Amanda earned a degree in Elementary Education and a Reading Specialist masters degree and has her National Boards Teaching Certificate. She is excited to help plan events for GiGi's Playhouse Annapolis that spread awareness, compassion, and kindness.
Katherine Somok, Programs Committee Chair
Katherine is the mother of four beautiful children, the third of whom has Down syndrome. She has lived her life as an educator in the broadest sense: as an elementary school teacher, an ESL teacher, a director of a tutoring/mentoring scholarship program, and most importantly, as a mother. She loves organizing and participating in events that bring communities together. Originally from the Chicagoland area, Katherine has lived in the DC metro area for over 10 years, and she and her family have been attending GiGi’s Playhouse since it opened.
Stacie Hansen, Board Member
Stacie was born and raised in Maryland and currently resides on Kent Island with her husband and three children. Her daughter, Skylar, has Down syndrome and is the light of her family’s life. Stacie is passionate about raising awareness and educating others about Down syndrome. She believes Down syndrome is a gift to be celebrated.
The Playhouse family holds a very special place in Stacie’s heart. In 2017, she received a breast cancer diagnosis shortly after Skylar was born with a massive heart defect. The Playhouse provided a safe space for the family to find support, identify resources and meet new friends. Stacie and Skylar are healthy and thriving today and ready to pay it forward!
Ray Pinkham, Board Member
Ray and his wife Katie are the proud parents of three boys: Thomas, Henry and Samuel. His youngest son, Samuel, has Down syndrome and has benefited from many programs at GiGi's Playhouse since it opened. Originally from Oregon, Ray now lives in the Annapolis area and is an attorney in Washington, DC. In his spare time, Ray enjoys watching and attending Washington Nationals and Capitals games with his sons and family day trips around the DC area.
Lynne Markowitz, Outreach Committee Chair
Lynne was born and raised in New York and moved to Maryland when she accepted her first Special Education Teaching position. She has worked in the Special Education field for 40 years with her last and most rewarding position being the Program Manager for the Infants and Toddlers Program. Her passion has always been advocating for and working with children with varying special needs and their families. As a recent retiree from Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Lynne is looking forward to using her professional background to support the mission of the Playhouse and to continue to provide awareness and outreach to new families and community partners.
Marissa Kleiman, Speech Language Pathologist
Marissa earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development, with honors, from Binghamton University, a Master’s of Science in Speech-Language Pathology, and an Advanced Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders from Brooklyn College. She is a licensed speech language pathologist in New York and Maryland and certified by the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA). She previously worked at Loyola University as a clinical supervisor, mentoring graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. Prior to working at the university level, Marissa was employed in both elementary and middle schools in New York, Florida, and Maryland. Marissa has extensive experience working with students who present with a wide range of communication disorders, including language-based learning disabilities, receptive/expressive language disorders, autism spectrum disorders, speech sound disorders, pragmatic deficits, and Down syndrome. Additionally, Marissa has worked with students who struggle in the areas of reading and writing. Marissa is certified in the Orton-Gillingham Reading Program and the Compton PESL Accent Modification Program, with additional trainings in Story Grammar Marker, Lively Letters, and Social Thinking. Marissa believes in collaborating with the family and educators in the therapy process and treating the whole individual.
Marissa lives in Howard County with her husband, two children, and two pups! She enjoys spending time with family, traveling, yoga, and hiking. Marissa had the opportunity to work with GiGi’s Playhouse families last year during the launch of the Amina Grace Speech and Language Program. She is thrilled to be part of the GiGi’s Annapolis team and to work with the wonderful families!
Jennifer Craig, Fundraising Committee Chair
Jennifer resides in Pasadena with her husband Martin and four children Caitlin, Mikey, Allison, and Henry. Jennifer became involved with GiGi’s Playhouse Annapolis after receiving a pre-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome for her youngest son Henry. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Science in Business Communications and currently works as the Marketing Operations Manager at The Mom Project. Jennifer’s son Henry has benefited from the LMNOP program as well as the Amina Grace Speech and Language Program. Jennifer is very excited to join the board and use her background in marketing and event planning to help raise funds and awareness for GiGi’s Playhouse and Down syndrome.
Robert P. Taishoff, Board Member
Captian Robert P. Taishoff, JAGC, USN (ret) is the CEO of Annapolis Yacht Sales and Service. Before this he served on active duty as the Director of the Appellate Defense Division for Navy-Marine Corps Appellate Review Activity, managing Navy and Marine Corps attorneys and civilians who represent service members with cases on appeal at the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and the United States Supreme Court. Among his assignments during a career spanning 22 years, he has served in The Office of the Special Assistant for Transformation; as Executive Officer Trial Service Office NE; as Deputy Director and Director of the Office of the JAG Appellate Government Division; and as Navy Counsel for the State Department representing the United States on Iranian Claims Litigation. Following his deployment in the Arabian Gulf during Operation Enduring Freedom Captain Taishoff was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency Office of General Counsel. His military awards include The Legion of Merit, five Meritorious Service Medals, a Joint Commendation Medal, three Navy Commendation Medals, a Navy Achievement Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
Captain Taishoff graduated from Syracuse University in 1986 and received a law degree from Widener Law School in May 1989. He completed an LL.M with highest honors at George Washington University School of Law in 2002. He has established a number of philanthropic programs through his family foundation, for which he is President and Trustee. Captain Taishoff established the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education at the Syracuse University School of Education. He serves as the Chairman of the Taishoff Family Foundation, is a member of the Syracuse University Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors for the National Down Syndrome Society. Captain Taishoff lives in Annapolis with his wife Kathy Taishoff and their 5 children.
Allyson Mccain, Executive Director
Allyson McCain has always been passionate about serving people with disabilities. Most recently, Allyson has been working for @ The Table, a national organization founded by the former President & CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) to advance strategic priorities and initiatives for disability nonprofits centered around housing, employment, education and community integration and inclusion. Allyson has also worked as an in-home caregiver to a young woman with Autism and volunteered as an art therapy instructor for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Allyson's goal is to help eliminate the barriers that people with Down syndrome and different abilities face in pursuing their dreams and aspirations. Allyson received her Bachelor’s in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Mississippi and is currently working towards her Master's in Public Policy and Administration at American University. Allyson is grateful to be a part of the GiGi’s Playhouse community and hopes to elevate the organization’s mission of changing the way the world views people with Down syndrome.
Andre Glenn, Operations Coordinator
Andre is a videographer, award-winning photographer, and music artist/producer. Andre has been with GiGi’s Playhouse Annapolis since September of 2020 and enjoys every minute of it. Andre feels honored to be able to bring his skills and charming personality to the Playhouse family. Andre did not have much experience with individuals with Down syndrome prior to GiGi’s, but always had a way of including everyone in any given activity.