Nancy Gianni, founder of GiGi's Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers
With over 450,000 individuals with Down syndrome living in the US alone; and counting affected parents and siblings, over 2 million people face the diagnosis every single day. 1 in 691 live births results in a Down syndrome diagnosis. Individuals with Down syndrome “have” Down syndrome every day of their lives, with no breaks and no days off. They face challenges like low muscle tone, cognitive delays, and damaging stereotypes that can stifle happiness, achievement and acceptance. And with a 85-90% termination rate: much work remains to give people a fighting chance for a full and happy life.
12 years ago, Nancy envisioned a better world, one full of potential and acceptance. That is when the first GiGi's Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center opened. Open to all, GiGi's is a place for families and the community to learn about and celebrate the diagnosis of DS and benefit from free therapeutic and educational programs that unleash one's "Best of All". Today there are 31 free-standing Playhouses throughout the United States and Mexico serving more than 25,000 participants and families. Programs are offered 100% free to all families so that cost will never be a barrier to achievement and acceptance. Going beyond Down syndrome, Nancy's vision for global acceptance for ALL comes to life through GiGi's Playhouse and the Generation G campaign.
CNN’s decision came after a month-long vetting process of our organization – including research, analysis and investigation into the organization’s 501C3 standing with the IRS, our financials, our business model, our program model, location stability, executive board health, and more – across all12 years of GiGi’s existence – and we passed! To be verified and validated by an international news organization like CNN is pretty cool unto itself!
From Richard Riley, a long-time Playhouse grandparent and supporter who nominated Nancy for CNN Heroes:
"Acknowledgment on the world stage should be but a beginning in recognizing the mission and the expectation of its success that Nancy Gianni has set. It could have easily been about her child, her struggle. Instead, she chose the word our...our children, our struggle. Millions are in need of feeling the touch of Love that is GiGi's Playhouse!"
CNN Heroes is a year-long initiative that honors everyday people for their selfless, creative efforts to help others. 2016 marks the tenth year of the Peabody Award-winning, Emmy-nominated campaign. Each year, CNN receives thousands of nominations from around the world.
In its first nine years, CNN Heroes has received more than 50,000 nominations from more than 100 countries. Since 2007, the campaign has profiled more than 200 CNN Heroes. They're working in more than 80 countries around the world, helping hundreds of thousands of people.
Please join us in congratulating Nancy and her family on this very special honor!