At the recent opening of our 38th GiGi’s Playhouse location in Tampa Florida, I was reminded and touched by the incredible love of siblings multiple times. First, in all of the siblings playing with their sibling with Down syndrome, helping them, laughing, sometimes fighting(have to keep it real) but always caring. Then by a woman who came up to me after I shared with the crowd, she was crying very hard. She said her sister who had Down syndrome had passed away a few years back and she could not find a place to volunteer that she could feel that love of her sister again.
She found it that day at GiGi’s!
Next, I met another sibling that was caring for her 45-year-old brother living with Down syndrome, who could not attend because he has Alzheimer’s. She too wanted to feel the love and see that people cared. The 700 attendees showed her that people do care, you just have to be around the right people. She said, “Oh if he only had this here in Tampa a few years ago….” My heart broke. She said there was nothing for him and the sedentary lifestyle only perpetuates the Alzheimer’s. Seeing the cooking class (they were making fresh pasta!) and the educational and social activities he could have been in made her both happy and sad. I was grateful to have met her.
And then came Connie. This amazing sibling who lost her sister with Down syndrome at the age of 16 back in 1974. Now she is volunteering at GiGi’s Tampa! Still fighting for her sister and everyone with Down syndrome 44 years later! After her sister Karen passed, the family opened a center to help people with special needs in a small town in Wisconsin named Glidden. (Ironically where my best friend is from!) Senator Kennedy spoke at the opening of this center and she gave me the cassette. Back then things were much different than they are now and she wanted me to hear it real time. The only problem is I do not have a cassette recorder! Honestly, just the way she gave it to me. Wrapped in an envelope with a rubber band around it made it special to me. That is exactly what my mom would have done. (insert hearts!!!)
Every opening leaves me with something special.
This one was extra special and reinforced that special love of a sibling. I think about my own kids as siblings and I pray that 44 years from now they are inspiring some mom like these women inspired me.
Now I just need to track down a cassette player! Who’s got one!
I would love to hear your stories, feel free to share in the comments! #strongertogether