Mom, I love GiGi’s – I feel like I belong!

Less than 40 years ago, the majority of people born with Down syndrome in the United States were placed in institutions. Professionals considered it impossible for people with Down syndrome to speak or walk properly, let alone read and write. It was assumed they most likely could not dress, feed or take care of themselves.

Fast forward to today: People with Down syndrome’s IQs have increased 20 points and the overwhelming majority learn how to read and write. Kids with Down syndrome attend public schools and some graduate with a typical degree. Many have gone on to achieve college degrees and more and more are holding down jobs and getting married.

Down syndrome is the most common form of intellectual disability, occurring in about 1 of every 700 births in the United States. ​Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition​.

The reason I am here tonight to support GiGi’s Playhouse Deerfield is because my daughter, Lilly has Down syndrome.

When we got Lilly’s diagnosis, we worried: “What’s her life going to be like? What should we do to help her? Who will help us?” We also learned about the many things Lilly would be dealing with: low muscle tone, cognitive delays, issues with her hearing and vision, thyroid problems, sleep apnea, concerns about her heart … and the list goes on. So how do families get from that seemingly scary diagnosis at birth to reading and writing? From being institutionalized to holding down a job? One part of that answer is: GiGi’s Playhouse. GiGi’s provides one of the things families and people with Down syndrome need most and often can’t find: that one thing is ​opportunity​.

GiGi’s Playhouse is the ONLY network of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers. Every day, they provide FREE, life-changing therapeutic, educational and career training programs for 30,000+ individuals of all ages. Their ​Mission statement​ says it all, ​to change the way the world views Down syndrome and to send a global message of acceptance for all. ​ Their ​vision​ is ​to see a world where individuals with Down syndrome are accepted and embraced in their families, schools and communities.

What they do overall, how their service benefits the community:​ GiGi’s offers 4 types of programs and services to the local Down syndrome community- ALL are free: Therapeutic programs such as speech, gross motor, fine motor, and developmental skills. Educational programs such as one-on-one tutoring in literacy and math. Career development programs focusing on self-confidence, real world skills, and career skills.

The GiGi’s Playhouse model was created to ensure that expenses stay down so that programs will remain free to families. Using just one paid staff member and the incredible support of dedicated volunteers the donations that come in go directly to the programs and families. Administrative and fundraising costs are less than 10% of their annual budget. Now that there is a GiGi’s Playhouse nearby, we have ​opportunity​– Lilly has both volunteered and participated in programs at GiGi’s. Its safe, positive, encouraging, and welcoming atmosphere helps Lilly feel at home there. On our way home from math tutoring last week said, “Mom, I love GiGi’s- I feel like I belong”” Thank you for supporting Lilly and all kids and adults with Down syndrome by supporting the Deerfield/Bannockburn GiGi’s Playhouse!

~ Elizabeth (Buffy), Lilly’s Mom


  1. Wendie Clark on February 20, 2020 at 9:31 am


  2. Dee Tiffany on February 22, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Inspirational! Sharing it with our Gigi-goers in Annapolis. Dee

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