You Are EXACTLY Where You Are Meant to Be – Gala Welcome by Alyse

We are heading into our fourth year open and it is so exciting to finally have the opportunity to host such a wonderful event to share with you who we are, why we are here and why the Down syndrome community is alive and thriving! & what better way to celebrate than during Down syndrome awareness month! We’ve even been able to attract new celebrities to our mission, thank you Kenny Braasch and Mari Pepin for joining us as we celebrate and a big shout out to Foglia Family Foundation, Turks Greenhouse, and Phase Three Brewing and our many other sponsors you can find in our programs. These sponsorships will make a large impact to the services offered at our playhouse.

My name is Alyse Mastrodonato, and I am here because my son, Conner has Down syndrome. We found GiGi’s Playhouse Deerfield and it changed our lives for the best. Tonight, you will hear from an active participant & regular volunteer, our Site Director, and a mom who who’s little guy is another miracle in our DS family.

I want to start the evening to honor our participants at the playhouse, they are the reason we are here tonight. They have a purpose, they matter, and they have a voice to be heard, so let’s hear it! Our families are the reason we do everything in our power to show acceptance, generosity, and kindness.

The biggest thank you to Nancy Gianni, a fellow mother and the founder of this non-profit organization. She wanted to make a difference for her daughter, GiGi, and without her, we would not have this amazing achievement center.

A large thank you to another fellow mom, Liz Thorn, who is the founding President of the Deerfield location, playhouse #42 (would have been 41, thanks Chicago snowstorms…). She and a team of volunteers saw the need for a location in the north shore and I am honored to have taken over the role as Deerfield’s Board President. Liz, I hope I’m making you proud.

To the start up team and current board members, thank you for volunteering with me to fulfill the potential I know this playhouse has to exceed our greatest dreams. You dedicate your time and energy to make sure we’re able to continue services, programs and offer resources to our families and participants at absolutely no cost.

Jill Rabin, you not only guided my family to Deerfield, but you have guided countless families to this playhouse. Thank you for being the most enthusiastic advocate, supporter, and encourager for these kids. Your work is changing the narrative for people with Down syndrome and we are so incredibly blessed to call you ours! Thank you for your time volunteering, resources, and guidance. Your lessons are truly giving our kids a voice and we are ever grateful for all you do and the impact you have on the families. *stand up please*

Shannon Powell, *where you at* 😉 without you, your dedication and hard work for the playhouse, well let’s just say we would not have as many amazingly fun events and programs. You aren’t afraid to go outside the box and for that, the playhouse has the energy it does. You are momma bear to this playhouse and we all love you.

Thank you to everyone in this room tonight. You are showing your communities and those you know that individuals with Down syndrome matter. You are shouting to the world that these individuals have purpose, reason, and belong just as everybody else. & Just so you know, because you are here tonight, you are now part of the Deerfield family. Once you walk through those doors you feel a presence you may not have expected. It’s a place that supports families in the very best way we can and know how to. It’s a family that has your back, just as we trust you have ours by your support at events such as this. It’s a family that checks in on each other through the tough times that this diagnosis can bring. It’s a family that invites you to birthday parties, play dates, and asks “will I see you at the playhouse”? It’s a family that you meet once, and everyone just gets it without saying a word and it’s a family that I never knew I needed. It’s a family that, I personally, could not imagine my life without. And I am so thankful to know that our playhouse family is growing because of one sneaky little extra chromosome. 😊

So, thank you. Thank you for being here tonight, for shouting out to the world that you love someone with Down syndrome and helping us grow. I hope you have a wonderful time tonight and if you are unfamiliar with GiGi’s Playhouse, I hope that tonight will show you this is exactly where you are supposed to be.

~ Alyse Mastrodonato, Board President and Conner’s Mom.

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