Volunteer of the Month – Emily!

Emily is rounding out her THIRD year volunteering at GiGi’s Playhouse Cleveland! Since starting in 2021, Emily has been an integral part of the success of Project Pulse. She volunteers weekly for the teen program and has grown as a volunteer and individual. Emily shares that she considers herself a shy person, but from the opportunities at GiGi’s Playhouse she has grown in a variety of ways. Emily utilizes her skills as an Occupational Therapist to push each participant to achieve their Best of All, while also fostering genuine rapport with each participant. We are so grateful for Emily’s commitment, love, and enthusiasm towards Project Pulse, GiGi’s Playhouse, and most importantly – every participant!

Tell us about yourself!

I live in Cleveland, born and raised. I am a school-based Occupational Therapist where I work with kids in general education classes and in the moderate/intensive needs classes. I love Cleveland sports and going to sporting events. Some of my favorite activities and hobbies are playing golf, trying new food places, playing trivia, working out, and traveling.

What got you involved at GiGi’s Playhouse? How long have you been involved?

I have been with GiGi’s Playhouse for almost three years. I initially started when I was in grad school and had to fulfill a graduation requirement of 20 volunteer hours. A classmate of mine had volunteered at GiGi’s before and suggested it as a place to get hours. After completing my program observations, Lizz reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in assisting Mary with getting Project Pulse back up and running. I was unsure at first, as I do not have a musical background, but I am so happy I agreed to help! It’s safe to say that I continued to volunteer past my 20-hour requirement!

Why do you love GiGi’s Playhouse?

I love GiGi’s because it gives individuals with Down syndrome an opportunity to achieve and accomplish so much! It’s so special seeing so many friendships develop over my time volunteering with Project Pulse. I love seeing the continuum of growth each participant experiences from session to session. The teens always manage to put a smile on my face, and they always seem to know when I am having a bad day or when an extra hug is needed.

Do you have a favorite memory at the Playhouse?

One of my favorite memories was when Project Pulse got invited to perform alongside the Lakewood Project and seeing the audience give the teens a standing ovation at the end of the performance. It was such a special moment since this was the first time many teens had performed in front of a large audience!

How has GiGi’s impacted your career as an Occupational Therapist?

GiGi’s is the main reason I recently switched jobs. I started my OT career with adults at inpatient rehab facilities. I was getting burnt out quickly and every time I came to GiGi’s I thought about how much fun I have and how much joy the participants bring me. I finally decided to switch to a school setting and haven’t looked back!

What is one piece of advice you’d give to a new volunteer?

The advice I would give a new volunteer is to not be afraid to go out of your comfort zone and take time to get comfortable. Generally, I am a shy person, but the more Project Pulse sessions I help with, the more comfortable I become. I can now step in and lead drumming during a Project Pulse session if Mary needs to step away during a session!

As a volunteer, what is one thing you’d say to a new family who is curious about GiGi’s Playhouse?

One thing I would say to a new family who is curious about GiGi’s is, DO IT! GiGi’s is so welcoming and they’re always ready to welcome every new family. There is a program for every child, teen, and adult. 

Emily, we are so grateful for your commitment to volunteering at the Playhouse over the years. Your love for this community is strong and genuine, which is further evidenced by the interactions and relationships formed. Thank you for giving your time and energy to all our friends!

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