Family Stories – Annie

If you’ve ever been to our Playhouse you’ve more than likely met Annie. If you attended our 2022 Brew Ha Ha, you more than likely witnessed Annie end the Project Performance with the splits. If you’ve ever been to the Cleveland Clinic, you’ve more than likely seen Annie in action at work. If you’ve ever been in the Cleveland area, you’ve more than likely run into Annie and her family. Needless to say, this girl is EVERYWHERE doing EVERYTHING. She swims, she works, she drums, she exercises, she texts, and she socializes. This spitfire of an individual brings a level of authenticity everywhere she goes. She’s not afraid to tell you exactly how she’s feeling, share that she needs an alcoholic beverage, or crack a joke or burp in the middle of a serious moment. In the words of her mom, we invite you to “buckle up” and read this story of inclusion, family, and humor from the lens of her mom – Janette.

How did you hear about GiGi’s Playhouse Cleveland?

Despite living about a football field away from GiGi’s Playhouse and watching the space transform, (our brother-in-law did electrical work for the Playhouse), I thought it was an early childhood center. We didn’t even walk in until one Saturday of the Lakewood Art Festival. Annie’s Grandma, aunt, and cousins were with us, and we were all amazed.  We were greeted by the most enthusiastic director and band of volunteers – many we recognized from school and Lakewood.  We signed Annie up for anything we could fit into her busy schedule. Since then, GiGi’s has been an amazing addition to her and our lives! 

What programs is Annie involved in?

Annie participates in Book Club, Fantastic Friends, (she even snuck into a few Teen Tastics), Project Pulse, GiGiFit, and Games with Friends. Honestly, it’s all about what we can squeeze into her daily schedule.  There’s not much she misses!

Tell us more about Annie!

She is an avid YouTube watcher and a scary movie enthusiast.  She loves to sing loudly, all the time and always off-key.  She has unbelievable time management skills and a keen memory. She is very, very self-assured, and she is in tune with EVERYTHING.  She speaks about getting her own apartment, getting rid of us (her parents), and marrying and birthing…which, of course, we need to temper. 

Annie has elaborate conversations with her Barbies. Boy, does she hash things out with them. Full-out conversations, many of them referencing “Pete and Janette”, as she no longer calls us mom and dad, but by our first names.

What would you like people to know about life with Annie and how can that change the community around us?

Annie has always been welcomed and requested to be part of the “roster”. I’d assume no one ever thought much differently than including. She’s always been there and surrounded by teams of sporty guys and a huge family of cousins. Truthfully, no one knew any differently as she’s always been a great part of the package.  Whether it be soccer, skating, softball, dance, swimming (Annie High School lettered in), or Special Olympics basketball – Annie has always been included.  She’s definitely gifted with athletic genes, so I’m sure that’s part of it, too. A funny story about Annie, at her very first day program (ages 2-3, I believe), Annie still holds the record for using every piece of gym equipment at the school.  Physical Therapists have always been impressed with her! 

All that being said, Annie had no choice but to strap on the seatbelt and come along for the ride, She was born right after her 2nd brother.  Both older boys were as busy as she is – it’s kind of how we roll. At a super young age, Annie was carted to any court, field, and rink the boys’ schedules took us.  It was only a matter of time until she could participate herself. 

Here’s another funny story: One Speedskater family requested we get Annie a jacket that read, ”If missing, please return to Lakewood Speedskating Club”. At every match, she would manage to drift off at the exact bang of the starters’ gun. We would travel miles to watch her brothers skate for about a one-minute race. It never failed that Pete and I would find ourselves saying “Arghhhhh – where’s Annie????” Despite her constantly wandering off on her own accord, we somehow survived!

What did inclusion look like for Annie?

Annie was always a part of our adventures. We never thought any differently.  It wouldn’t have made sense and would have been much harder for us not to include her. It’s just how we all grew up, always including friends and family, which definitely contributes to her inclusion. Annie doesn’t think any different either.  Annie is gifted with great friends – from kindergarten, believe it or not!  She was lucky enough to be in a community and school system that is very old, very experienced, and very diverse.  It worked for all of us!

What “words of wisdom” do you have for new parents?

I recall not being able to read everything handed to us the week she was born.  We were so busy and just could not wrap our arms around all the advocate groups, meetings, socials, and reading materials. It was way too much for us. We just attended and participated where we could, without disrupting the growth of our older kids. (Not unlike any other family addition, but SO MUCH thrown at us.) Weeding out and being selective worked for us.

As any other child does, Annie has bettered and busied all of our lives. Not just any child can put you in your place and get away with it, right? She definitely has grounded us, for the good.

If you are interested in sharing your story, please email our Operations Manager, Mary at: mmakulinski@gigisplayhouse.org

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