Our Team


Ashley Heiligenstadt, GiGiFIT Program Coordinator


Ashley moved to Charlotte 5 years ago after receiving her degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science from James Madison University.

While at JMU, Ashley worked at the Morrison Bruce Center developing programs for women and girls that promoted active and healthy lifestyles. She also served as a golf and fitness coordinator for the Overcoming Barriers program which focused on motor skill development for children with varying disabilities.

Since then she has worked with athletes of all ages teaching proper body mechanics and overall health and wellness as a Strength and Conditioning Coach in the Charlotte area. She is so excited to continue to get back to her passion of working in the Down Syndrome community through the GiGiFIT program.  


Britney Gaia - Social Media Manager/Marketing Committee

Britney moved to Charlotte in 2017 after growing up in Pittsburgh, PA and finishing college at Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA, where she received a BA in both Marketing and Intelligence Studies. Upon moving to the city, she worked as a Digital Marketing Analyst at Red Ventures where she was introduced to GiGi’s Playhouse after bee-lining to the booth at a community involvement event and immediately feeling a connection to GiGi’s. Britney has always had a heart for working with children with special needs and advocating for acceptance and inclusion, and could not wait to be involved.

She started her journey with GiGi’s as a “Believer” for a “Dreamer” to help raise money for the Charlotte Playhouse doors to open. Shortly after she became involved with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte as a member of the Buddy Walk event planning committee. Currently Britney works full time in Market Research for the financial services and insurance industry, volunteers as a literacy tutor with GiGi’s, and enjoys all things outdoors. She is thrilled to be a part of the GiGi’s team and looks forward to combining her passions to spread the GiGi’s mission.


Carin Cox Miller, Teen Board Advisor


I am a busy mom to 13 year old twin girls and an 11 year old step-son. They keep me on my toes. When I’m not helping my clients buy or sell a home, you’ll often find me at Soccer Games, Science Fairs, volunteering at GiGi's Playhouse, or the local YMCA.
One of my favorite things to do with my family here in Charlotte is heading to the US National Whitewater Center and climbing the ropes courses.

After attending the University of Central Florida, I spent several years with Merrill Lynch in Jacksonville, FL where I obtained my Series 7 brokers license. After the birth of my twins, I opened a successful eCommerce business that I managed for 9 years before finally following my heart and going into the family business of Real Estate.

I was introduced to GiGi's Playhouse through one of the founding board members. I began co-teaching GiGi's Kitchen and fell in love with GiGi's Playhouse. I knew this was where heart belonged and where I wanted to commit my time to bring awareness about Down Syndrome.


Danielle Fletcher, Events Lead


Danielle is married and the mother of a beautiful energetic daughter. She has lived in Charlotte for nineteen years and is proud to call the Queen City home. Danielle has a heart to help and to give to others; volunteering has been a part of her life since she was young.

Danielle was motivated to volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse with the desire to work with an organization whose vision and mission resonated with her own beliefs and with the hope to support and assist families of children and loved ones with Down syndrome. She has over 15 years of event and meeting planning experience and is passionate to inspire others to celebrate life. She is thrilled to bring her passions, gifts and talents to GiGi’s Playhouse as the Events Lead.


Denise Faulkner, Marketing/Public Relations


Denise Faulkner relocated to the Charlotte area with her husband and three children in July of 2016. She has more than 15 years of experience in corporate communications working primarily in the financial services and insurance industries. Earlier in her career, Denise worked in public relations where she provided a wide range of companies with media relations and communications support.

Since her nephew Shane was born, Denise has been looking for an opportunity to lend her skillset and support to the DS community. Shortly after moving to Charlotte she was excited to learn of the plans for a local GiGi’s Playhouse and signed up to volunteer.

Denise looks forward to building relationships within the local community and raising awareness and support for GiGi’s Playhouse Charlotte and individuals with Down syndrome.


John Fisher, Treasurer

John Fisher settled in Charlotte in early 2016 with his wife and three children after living all around the country, from Florida to California. While not a native of Charlotte, he and his family found a home here and love the community. Service and a keen interest for the welfare of others are important values to him and his family, and are what led him to volunteering with GiGi's Playhouse.

Professionally, John works as an accountant. After graduating from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, he went to work for leading companies in the alternative investment space, and currently manages a team of accountants specializing in private equity for Apex Group Ltd in Charlotte. He is now delighted to put his professional expertise to good use, helping the community through GiGi's Playhouse.


Melissa Buczek, Site Coordinator


Melissa moved to Charlotte in 2012 from Neenah, Wisconsin. While Melissa will always be a Packer fan and has a specific love for Wisconsin cheese, she can’t get enough of East Coast living. In her free time, she is out soaking up all the outdoor activities she can in addition to travel, music and dance hobbies.

Melissa is a visionary; in addition to her role in opening GiGi’s Playhouse Charlotte, she has lead teams and developed initiatives within the CMS School District to support Charlotte’s ESL population. She strives to create awareness and progressive local and global acceptance for all.

Melissa’s first son, William, was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after he was born in 2016. That was the beginning of a journey that has led her to become a passionate advocate for individuals with special needs in the Charlotte community. She has a second son, Matthew, who was born in 2017. Melissa is thrilled to be a part of the GiGi’s Charlotte team and cannot wait to see the positive impact she knows GiGi’s Playhouse will have in the Greater Charlotte area.


Olivia Draeger, Literacy Coordinator

Born and raised in Northern Illinois, Olivia earned her Associate's of Arts Degree and moved to Charlotte in 2019 to complete her BA in English, concentrating in Education and Childhood Studies from the University of North Carolina - Charlotte. She also currently serves in the United States Army National Guard full-time.

Olivia was introduced to GiGi's Playhouse Rockford in 2011 where she volunteered her time among various programs including Teen Time, LMNOP, and Math & Literacy Tutoring, and she has held multiple positions within the GiGi's community since then. She was incredibly honored to have been awarded with the 2016 Youth Volunteer Award and loves supporting the programs this organization has to offer.

Olivia grew up in Dance Studios and Community Theater which sparked her interest in directing the first GiGi's Playhouse Rockford theater production, "The Wizard of Oz", in 2018. Because of the work Olivia continues to do through GiGi's, not only does it allow her to help individuals grow and learn, but it also has taught her the importance of strength and acceptance. She is inspired every day by the GiGi's family and support of the community, and is thrilled to work hand-in-hand with such a dedicated team.


Roy Courtney, Program and Event Coordinator


Roy is passionate and enthusiastic about empowering others and has spent 8 years working in the non-profit sector, using his experience to provide services to the people in the community, fulfilling his passion to create social engagement for all. Roy has worked for Make-A-Wish, at summer camps for children with special needs and created sports programs for at-risk youth while working in Oxfordshire. He feels honored to be the Programs and Events Coordinator and have a role in empowering individuals with Down syndrome.

Roy is originally from the United Kingdom and has lived in the USA for the last 5 years spending 2 years in Orlando, Florida and moving to Charlotte in 2017.   In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his rescue dogs Jumbo and Abby, hiking, kayaking, and venturing out and around Charlotte with friends.