Megan Westendorf: GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago Impact Story

What brought you to GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago? 

I first became involved with GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago as part of my capstone project while in graduate school. I was fortunate enough to work with seven of our adult participants as part of an internship program focusing on increasing their self-determination, goal setting, problem-solving, self-advocacy, and overall independence. After getting to experience firsthand the joy, excitement, and happiness that surrounds you as soon as you walk in the doors of GiGi’s Playhouse on a daily basis, I knew that I would not be leaving any time soon. After finishing my capstone experience, I joined the board as one of the Outreach Co-Chairs. It is so nice to be able to continue growing my relationships with participants, families, staff, and volunteers while also being able to help GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago continue to flourish. 

Share how you have made an impact at GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago this year. 

As one of the Outreach Co-Chairs on our Board of Managers, I help to amplify the impact of GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago and share our stories with a wider audience. In 2023 alone, we have been able to host tables at multiple farmer’s markets, organize our second annual family movie night, present to elementary school classrooms, attend several resource fairs with local organizations, begin our Parent Liaison program, foster connections with nearly 15 new community partners, and host our first annual Friendsgiving event. With so many fun events going on, it’s hard to pick a favorite! 

Whether collaborating with local partners, making new community connections, inviting new families to join us at the Playhouse, or planning events to help our families connect, it is my goal to help make a lasting and positive impact on the lives of each participant at the Playhouse. It is my hope that by sharing the joy of GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago, we can continue to grow a compassionate and inclusive society for individuals with Down syndrome. 

Vision for GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago in 2024 

When thinking about what my vision is for GiGi’s Playhouse this upcoming year, one word consistently came to mind. More. More participants, more families, more community partners, more family events, more volunteers, more donations, more smiles, more opportunities, more acceptance.  I look forward to being able to share more of the joy, excitement, and happiness of GiGi’s Playhouse with more people throughout 2024. 

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