I have written many times about what GiGi’s means to me. Now officially five years in, I can say the playhouse has truly shaped who I am and recently I have gotten to witness the impact it has on my daughter. We learn so much from the kids and adults we work with, but also from their families, friends, therapists; this community is filled with people wanting to help people. I have known for a long time how amazing GiGi’s is, but it was not until recently that I realized just how important a part of my life it has become.

The stay at home order was challenging for everyone but especially for the kids and adults we work with who thrive on routine. This has completely uprooted their everyday patterns. As an employee of GiGi’s I wanted to make sure that we were still there supporting them in any way we could. As hard as it was for us to not see them every day, we knew they would be missing us even more. Our playhouse immediately signed on to run two national virtual programs, it was one way we knew we could continue to support and connect to our families. These virtual programs quickly became the highlight of my week.

Shortly after the stay at home order was issued, I received some bad news and had to go through my own personal challenge. During an already isolating time, an experience like this made me feel even more alone. I went into the playhouse on Monday knowing that I would be leading a virtual program that afternoon but not sure if I was going to be able to get through it. I prepped for the program and signed on, doing my best to pull myself out of the fog. As the friendly faces from all over the country started popping up on the screen, I started to breath easier. These awesome kids despite everything happening in the world were still smiling, still sharing their love and laughter, and still working hard. For that hour running the program I was able to smile and laugh and share in their joy. There is serious magic in that extra chromosome that can be felt across state lines, computer screens, and tough times.

One of the first people I told about what I was going through was a mom at the playhouse. While I was not really talking to anyone outside of immediate family for some reason, I felt like I could share with her. The network of people that make up GiGi’s are some of the greatest people you will ever meet. I knew that I was safe talking to her because “GiGi’s people” are the most compassionate, understanding people you will ever know. They learn to care on an even deeper level because their amazing kiddos teach them how.  I am grateful to work in an environment where we lift people up.

When we talk about the importance of the GiGi’s At Home program we think about the needs that we are fulfilling for the families. Supporting educational, therapeutic, and career skills in a fun purposeful way. We think about the relief that we are providing parents, giving them tools and resources to continue to help their child develop their skills but I think one of the greatest impacts GiGi’s At Home offers is the ability to connect with others when you need them the most, when you are feeling isolated, alone, or lost. The amazing thing about GiGi’s and the families we support is that they will always be there for you. Five years in and I cannot imagine working anywhere else.

~ Shannon Kerin Powell

If you want to join us for Destination Discovery, which I lead every Monday at 2PM CST you can RSVP on the online calendar here: https://gigisplayhouse.org/gigisathome/calendar/

Or watch them On Demand under All Ages: https://gigisplayhouse.org/gigisathome/programs/all-ages/

***Photos in Playhouse were taken before COVID-19***

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