Megan Vance - Site Manager
Megan Vance has been a lifelong advocate for the Down syndrome community from the time her brother was born with Down syndrome in 2001. "He has been my biggest influence and best friend in life, and I have strived to make the world a better place for him and so many others."
Megan's commitment to this advocacy followed her through her college career as a two-time graduate of The Ohio State University. During her undergraduate experience, she was president of a student organization that strived to promote inclusion and acceptance of the Down syndrome community and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in social work in 2018, then went on to pursue her master’s in social work and graduated in 2020. During graduate school, Megan continued to make connections when she received a scholarship from a family who has a daughter with Down syndrome, who she is proud to now call her friend, and later learned she is involved with GiGi’s Playhouse Canton!
Megan is a licensed social worker with experience in the mental health field, non-profit mentoring, and program development. She also shares that she has five pets and counting, enjoys painting, cooking, baking, and spending time with friends and family, and has a knack for finding 4-leaf clovers!
Megan's wish for the Playhouse is to have signage that can be seen from the main road, or maybe even a billboard!
Rachel Ribbe - Program and Volunteer Coordinator
Rachel Ribbe has always had a passion to serve others which led her to earn a degree in Human Relations at the University of Oklahoma. Her journey in supporting the Down syndrome community began in February 2016 at the Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma. Over six years, she held various roles as DSACO, culminating in her position as Program and Marketing Manager.
Rachel relocated to Ohio for love, and married Andrew Ribbe in October 2022. Beyond her professional commitments, she finds joy in traveling, baking, and playing sports such as volleyball and golf. Rachel is also a member of the Junior League of Stark County and serves on the board of directors.
Rachel seized the opportunity to continue her service to the Down syndrome community at GiGi's Playhouse Canton as the Program and Volunteer Coordinator. Rachel hopes her contribution to GiGi's Playhouse Canton will help create a better community where everyone is accepted, respected and included. Her dream for GiGi's Playhouse Canton is to grow into its own building equipped with a GiGi's Studio Café and gymnasium for programs such as GiGiFIT.
Ben Morrett, Board President
Ben Morrett and his wife, Nicole, were married in 2013 and they currently live in the Jackson area. They are actively pursuing the adoption of their first child, a little girl in China (who happens to have Down syndrome). They can’t wait to travel and be able to bring her home to be a part of their family and the GiGi’s family, as well!
Ben graduated from the University of Dayton with his Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Engineering Technology. He currently works at The Timken Company as a Product Manager. Ben joined the Canton board to be a part of creating a more inclusive and accepting community for his future daughter to grow up in.
Ben wishes we can get more picture frames to add more photos all around the Playhouse!
Jessi Korpi, Board Vice President
Jessica (Jessi) and her husband Fred were born in Colorado and met in college. They married in 2009 and made their way to Missouri in 2011. Jessi is a graduate of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. They are proud parents of 3 OHIO children, Blaiden, Adilene, & Kallie. During their second pregnancy they learned that they had a beautiful girl with Down syndrome. Jessi looked for resources and support and found comfort in the love of GiGi’s Playhouse. When she learned Canton was opening a GiGi’s Playhouse, she was immediately enthused and has been involved since it opened!
Adilene was diagnosed with cancer just before her 2nd birthday. “Without the love, support, and the absolute unrelenting strength our family would not have survived.” – Fred. Adilene is not only cancer free but has prospered! Jessi is a rock and anchor for the entire family. Since that day she has been raising a beautiful family and devoting her life to improving Adilene’s life and the lives of every parent and child with Down syndrome.
Jessi wishes to have a dropdown projector at the Playhouse to use for new family and volunteer orientations.
Stacy Jackson, Past President
Stacy Jackson and her husband, Rick, were married in 2005 and have seven children, 6 boys and their youngest, a girl, who was born in July 2016 with Down syndrome. Their daughter, Maleah, has changed their perspective on life in so many ways that they are 100% on board with the concept of celebrating that extra chromosome.
Stacy graduated from Kent State University with her bachelor’s degree in sign language interpreting and later from the University of Akron with her master’s in special education. Stacy has spent the majority of her career in education as a teacher and interpreter. She was honored to join the GiGi's Playhouse National Office Staff in June 2022 as the Regional Director of the Eastern Region.
Stacy has been part of the GiGi's Playhouse Canton team from the very first start-up meeting in March of 2017 and has served in several capacities.
“Being a part of bringing GiGi’s Playhouse to Canton was truly one of the most exciting things I have ever been involved in! The relationships that have been established has been life-changing for our family. I know, without a doubt, that the impact GiGi’s Playhouse will continue to have in the Stark County area will be nothing short of incredible!”
Stacy’s wish list for the Playhouse would be an actual gym area for GiGiFIT.
Genevieve Boja, Secretary
Genevieve (Genny) became involved in the Down syndrome community when the family she babysat for had a beautiful daughter with Down syndrome, named Monroe, to round out their wonderful family. Since the first GiGi’s start-up meeting in a Panera, Genny has been committed to changing the way the world views Down syndrome and to send a global message of acceptance for all!
Genny graduated from the University of Akron with her Bachelor's in Child and Family Development. She currently works as an elementary teacher at The Golden Key Center for Exceptional Children, working primarily with students on the Autism spectrum.
Genny was a part of the Start-up Committee and currently sits on the program committee and the marketing committee (as the fastest proofreader in the East) for GiGi’s Playhouse Canton. "This whole journey has been so wonderful, and I've learned so much. Finally having this dream come true for so many people is one of the most spectacular things I will ever be a part of."
If she could have one item for the Playhouse, it would be a large sensory tube.
Malik Danzy, Ambassador
Malik Danzy was born with Down syndrome in 2004 and has excelled in life since the beginning. He attended a daycare that encouraged his strengths rather than differences, and it was because of this Malik has strived to break many barriers. Malik is a graduate of Tusky Valley Schools and studied Hospitality at Buckeye Career Center. During his time in high school, Malik served as varsity basketball manager and earned his varsity letter. Malik was selected by his peers to prom court and was graciously crowned Prom King for his senior class.
Malik is enrolled in the Siffrin Academy program to gain additional skills to transition from high school to employment. He focuses on classroom academics and volunteer job skills in the community. Outside of Siffrin, he is active within the community. He swims for Stark Sharks Special Olympics swim team; He earned the Special Olympics Swimmer of the Year in 2022 through the Stark County Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame. He is involved in his church and serves as an usher, reads scripture during worship service and visits the shut-in singing songs for uplifting and encouragement. Malik volunteers with Compassioned Delivered, a free meal service program for individuals dealing with life threatening or terminal illness. In this role, he has connected with many families. Keeping fit is important and he works out several times a week. Besides swimming he participates in a drum fitness class at his local YMCA. He also is active with the GiGiFIT class at GiGi’s Playhouse Canton and participates in fundraising events as his way to give back - His favorite event is Putts and Pints for a Purpose fundraiser.
Music has been a significant part of Malik’s life beginning with his first drum set at five years old. This love of music continues with perfecting his skills and jamming to Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars. As with most young adults he also enjoys playing Xbox in his spare time. Malik resides with his mom, dad, dog Molly and cat Bella. He has a strong love for his immediate family which includes an adult brother and sister. This love does stop there. Fortunately, extended family is local and he visits his aunts, uncle and cousins regularly. He especially looks forward to annual vacations with all his cousins.
Malik is excited and honored to be a member of GiGi’s Playhouse Canton’s board of directors. His wish for the center is to acquire a bigger building that has a gymnasium to play basketball, fitness and music classes.
Charlie Dear, Board Member
Charlie Dear is a Jackson High School Alum and graduate of the University of Mount Union where he double majored in Finance and Business Management. At Mount Union, Charlie was a two-time team captain, member of the 2015 & 2017 National Championship teams, and 2017 AP All-American Linebacker. Charlie is a financial professional/Certified Retirement Education Specialist (CRES) with Equitable Advisors and has been an active board member with GiGi’s Playhouse- Canton since August of 2020. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family, hiking, fishing and playing frisbee with his fiancé Brittany and German Shepard Bear.
Charlie’s wish for GiGi’s Playhouse is to have a turfed area for our GiGiFIT programming, or any program that would allow the participants to be outside and be active.
Steven Hykes, Board Member
Steven Hykes grew up with family friends who had a daughter with Down syndrome, which gave him a small glimpse into the future when he and his wife Aidelni (eye-dell-knee) learned early into their pregnancy their daughter Zoë was highly likely to be born with Down syndrome. Zoë has been a bright light for their family of 5 and keeps her two older sisters on their toes. Zoë was born in Tucson, Arizona and there was a lot of non-profit and government support for families of children with Down syndrome but no GiGi's Playhouse in that area. When they moved to Phoenix a few years later, Steven and his family discovered GiGi's Playhouse and loved that there was an intentional community of parents with a lot of wisdom to share and guide each other forward. When Steven and his family decided to move to northeast Ohio, GiGi's Playhouse was central in the decision of which community they wanted to call home.
Steven graduated from the University of Akron with a bachelor's degree in accounting and started his career in public accounting in New York and Chicago before moving to Arizona in 2010. During his time in Arizona, he worked for Tucson Unified School District; United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona; and Academies of Math and Science, a charter school network, where he leads their finance and growth teams. Steven currently works remotely in Ohio for Academies of Math and Science and is an inactive Certified Public Accountant. Steven joined the GiGi’s Playhouse Canton board not only because his family is a part of the GiGi's community, but because he knows how important it is to have financial expertise on a non-profit board.
If Steven could wish for one thing for GiGi's Playhouse Canton, it would be to someday have a new GiGi’s building (rent free) that had a dedicated space for all of GiGi’s menu of program offerings, including a a GiGi’s Studio Café space and GiGiU.
Christina Ziga-Budd, Past President
Christina Ziga-Budd and her husband, Tim, reside in Green with their three daughters McKinley, Reagan and Monroe. “Our youngest daughter Monroe was born in August 2015. She surprised us when she was born with a full head of dark hair and Down syndrome. We always say Monroe was not only a gift to us as parents, but she was meant to follow behind her awesome big sisters. They are her best teachers and advocates.”
Christina is a graduate of Kent State University where she graduated with a degree in Elementary Education and later got her master's in Educational Leadership with a Principal’s License and Superintendent’s License. Christina currently is the Special Education Director in the Springfield Local Schools.
Christina posted on Facebook about Gigi’s Playhouse in February of 2017. In March 2017, a group of passionate strangers brainstormed if this was needed in our community. It is amazing that it all began in the corner of a Panera! “We obviously decided that this was the way to go and was a needed icon in our community! Come visit us we cannot wait to meet you!”
One wish Christina has for our Playhouse is to have an enclosed trailer that can haul our event
Melissa Quinlan, Board Member
Melissa Quinlan and her husband, Justin, both grew up in the Canton area and attended Jackson High School. They were married in 2009 and had their first child, Piper, in 2015 and second child, Aria, in 2017. Both girls keep them busy with sports activities including gymnastics, cheerleading and swimming. The Quinlan family also has two golden retriever mixes named Clara and Roxy.
Melissa graduated from Kent State University in 2008 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and a Minor in Marketing. Throughout her career, Melissa has held various marketing and communication roles. She currently works at The Timken Company as a Marketing Communications Manager.
In her free time, Melissa enjoys long distance running, especially on the local towpath, and participating in half marathons. She also loves Disney and traveling in general.
Melissa believes the only disability in life is a bad attitude and that everyone deserves to pursue their passions and dreams. She joined the Canton board to be a part of an organization that supports acceptance for all. Melissa hopes her young children will eventually volunteer at GiGi’s and live in a world that supports kindness and acceptance.
Melissa’s wish list for the Playhouse would be more equipment and activities for GiGiFIT.