We Are Family

If you’ve been around a while, you might recall a disco song from the late ‘70’s by Sister Sledge called “We Are Family.” Four sisters sang this chorus that rose to the top of music industry charts:


We are family

I got all my sisters with me

We are family

Get up everybody and sing


So catchy and fun! The Pittsburgh Pirates even used it as their team song building camaraderie among players before winning the 1979 World Series against the favored Baltimore Orioles.

My husband and I married a month later, and it only made sense to play “We Are Family” at our wedding reception. Never mind the fact that my roots are a wee bit north of Pittsburgh and my husband’s roots are a wee bit south of Baltimore, and he was still “licking his wounds” over the series loss. All in good fun and celebration, right? I’m glad to report that forty-two years later, we are still family!

Why bring up this kind of history in the city of Cleveland, you ask? Pretty sure the majority of folks in The Land don’t care much for Pittsburgh OR Baltimore as far as sports teams go.

 But—truth be told, no matter what city you are from or find yourself living in later on in life, you can step inside any GiGi’s Playhouse and feel like family!

Let your mind drift back to the first time you walked into your favorite Playhouse. After absorbing the bright and beautiful color-filled environment, how did you feel?


I’ll never forget that feeling.



Immediately, GiGi’s felt welcoming.

GiGi’s felt comforting.

GiGi’s felt like family.

Members of this family share connectedness by their love for individuals with Down syndrome and their desire to help them become their very best selves. With this shared goal in mind, they will do A LOT of life together like family.

Parents of infants and young children with Down syndrome support one another in this new and often hard adventure cheering for their littles as milestones are met. Parents with older children become valued mentors who share knowledge, advice and hugs. Additionally, they help meet practical needs by passing items on that their children have outgrown. Well beyond clothing, this might include specially-equipped strollers, toy trikes or even beds.


GiGi’s Playhouse is the glue that holds this family together.


With its many fun purposeful activities for infants through adulthood, GiGi’s Playhouse provides a home away from home for this family of friends. Exercise programs, educational one-on-one tutoring, music therapies, and social gatherings are listed among GiGi’s calendar of events. Open space is available to schedule private affairs like birthday parties too.

Outside the doors of GiGi’s Playhouse, our GiGi’s family members gather together at various fundraising events and parades to celebrate and support our loved ones. We smile when we notice a stranger with Down syndrome—perhaps at the park or the zoo. Like a free pass to connect, we stop to introduce ourselves and invite them to join our GiGi’s family.

Day after day, GiGi’s family grows in number. Big-hearted volunteers line up to become members. While others arrive at GiGi’s door when that unexpected diagnosis comes.


We are family.


Might we offer up a remix of that ‘70’s song with some new lyrics? Something like…


We are family

I’ve got GiGi’s Playhouse with me

We are family

Get up everybody and sing



Sing it loud.

Sing it proud.

Add some disco moves.

And dance!


 Thank you to Rhonda Wagner, grandma to Caden and published author, for this beautiful blog depicting the family environment created by GiGi’s Playhouse. We are family! 


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  1. Margaret Kerr on November 1, 2021 at 5:42 pm

    Beautiful write up. Loved the pictures. What a great program!
    Margie Kerr

    • Rhonda Wagner on November 2, 2021 at 7:20 pm

      Thank you for your kind sentiments, Margie! If your sister, Janie, takes you on a road trip (which I know she loves to do), you’ll have to step inside a GiGi’s Playhouse somewhere to experience it for yourself! ❤️

  2. Linda Foor on November 2, 2021 at 10:22 am

    What an awesome way to introduce people to GiGi’s!
    You are a loving Friend and Grandma who uses her writing talents to help other people. God bless you! 💜

    • Rhonda Wagner on November 2, 2021 at 7:23 pm

      Awwww Lin! Thanks for your kind words, dear friend of mine! Pretty sure you handcrafted that fabulous “just married” heart for our car! And, I’m certain you danced to “We Are Family” that November night long ago! ❤️

  3. Annette on November 2, 2021 at 10:57 am

    Thank you tremendously, Rhonda for your beautifully written expressions of love for GiGi’s Playhouse. Each word reminded me of how GiGi’s Playhouse truly IS MY FAMILY! Every single day that I walk into GiGi’s feels like HOME to me, as I am always surrounded by love and that I GET TO reciprocate that LOVE each day! Thank you once again, for sharing your beautiful story AND for reminding us about the heart of our amazing Playhouse; WE ARE FAMILY! XOXO

    • Rhonda Wagner on November 2, 2021 at 7:26 pm

      Dearest Annette… you are one of the most welcoming and hospitable members of the GiGi’s Playhouse Cleveland family! Thank you for all that you do to provide that “good fit feeling” to all who enter those doors! ❤️

  4. Mary on November 2, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    I ❤️ this blog and the family you have found and help foster at GIGi’s. What a wonderful environment for Caden and his forever friends to grow up in surrounded by so much support and love.

    • Rhonda on November 21, 2021 at 7:36 pm

      GiGi’s is one of many blessings God gave our family when He gave us Caden. ❤️

  5. Karol Carlisle on November 2, 2021 at 8:34 pm

    Oh sweet Rhonda!!! This is an amazing story!!! Thank you very much for weaving your personal story with Gigi’s. Absolutely, Gigi’s is family!

    • Rhonda on November 21, 2021 at 7:38 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Karol! Yes, as Caden’s grandmas, we share an even greater love for our GiGi’s family! ❤️💙💛

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