Our Team


Christy Allen - Executive Director


Christy’s involvement with GiGi’s Playhouse Charlotte began in 2017 as Start-up Lead and playhouse Co-founder. A graduate from the University of Michigan, Christy moved to Charlotte in 2000 to continue her career in HR, Staffing Operations and Leadership Development. In 2012, she “retired” from the corporate arena to conduct literary events in schools, writing camps, and self-publish a children's mystery novel. When Christy and her husband, John, welcomed their son, Charlie, to the world in 2014, they were struck by the disparity between the fear and negativity surrounding a Down syndrome diagnosis, versus the incredible joy that living life with Charlie brought. Ironically, Down syndrome was the last thing they were thinking about at Charlie's birth, due to a rare congenital blood disorder that transitioned to Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) at 16-months of age. Charlie’s courageous journey to overcome Leukemia sparked a powerful desire in Christy to give back. On World Down Syndrome Day in 2017, she met future co-founder, Jessica Allen, a mom who’d experienced the life-changing impact of GiGi’s Playhouse in Raleigh. This chance meeting set an extraordinary journey in motion, leading to the grand opening of the Charlotte playhouse in April 2019.


Aysen Ulupinar, Operations Manager


Aysen Ulupinar cares deeply about helping others—which makes her a great fit for our team. Her organizational and tactical expertise contribute greatly to GiGi’s Playhouse Charlotte.

Aysen moved to from Ohio to North Carolina in 2015 with her daughter. She has an extensive background in higher education, administrative work and leadership development. She worked at UNC Charlotte, the University of Akron, and Baldwin-Wallace University prior to GiGi’s Playhouse. She also currently works as a member of the Guest Relations Staff for Bank of America Stadium (home of the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte FC) - you'll find her at the stadium for every home game, match and concert, greeting fans as they arrive! Aysen earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Bowling Green State University and her Master of Education degree in Higher Education from Kent State University, both in Ohio. Aysen is a certified True Colors facilitator, REACH Ecosystem Practitioner, and has a passion for leadership development and training. She is grounded in her faith and loves to travel with her family while taking time to learn more about people. Aysen's name is pronounced Eye-Shen.


Nathan Healy, Board Member

After a quick stint playing professional basketball in Europe for 2 years, Nate moved to CLT in 2015 and has been working at Red Ventures for the past 5 years in a variety of roles centered around Digital Marketing. His desire to help with GiGi’s stems from his numerous interactions with the DS community and its individuals that always leave him inspired, and he wholeheartedly believed in “Acceptance for all”.

He met his wife Anna at App State, and they have 2 young children, Izzy (5) and Joe (3). who keep them busy. When it’s nice enough, you’ll find the whole crew outside somewhere, preferably on the water!


Dan Schlesing - Treasurer

Dan is a senior wealth planner with over 18 years experience advising high net worth individuals, families, and business owners on all aspects of their wealth.I am a graduate of Campbell University’s Lundy Fetterman School of Business and have worked in the banking industry my entire career.Dan has spent the majority of his life in North Carolina and has lived in South Charlotte since 2005. He and his wife of 16 years, Laura, have three boys,Ryan (age 10), William (age 7), and Matthew (age 3).William was born with Down syndrome in January 2014, and was later diagnosed with Leukemia inAugust 2016. William’s treatment was very difficult and required us to spend a lot of nights at LevineChildren’s hospital over the following 3 year period, with William not being allowed to leave for over a month. This journey has brought us closer together as a family and in our Christian faith.Dan is an active member of Calvary Church, he is also a member of the Levine Children’s HospitalCancer Champions Board, the Charlotte Estate PlanningCouncil, and the Financial Planning Association of Charlotte.Our family participated in the grand opening of GiGi’s playhouse two years ago and I look forward to serving in any capacity to support and promote GiGi’s playhouse in order to enrich the lives of people with Down Syndrome.