Nonprofits Work Together to Create Heart Safe Space

GiGi’s Playhouse in Deerfield is proud to be working with Big Dreams for Little Hearts on ensuring a heart safe environment for our participants, families and volunteers. Big Dreams for Little Hearts will be donating an AED machine and training to GiGi’s Playhouse on December 30th. GiGi’s niche is supporting individuals with Down syndrome in their families through volunteer led programs including fitness programs, nutrition, speech and language programs and more. About 50% of individuals with Down syndrome are born with a heart condition, most of them needing open heart surgery by the time they are six months old. This heart condition with the combination of hypotonia (low muscle tone) can make physical therapy and fitness challenging for these individuals. It is imperative that we have an environment that allows our participants to build their muscles, confidence and strength in a safe environment and Big Dreams for Little Hearts is ensuring that happens. The donation of an AED and training could truly be life-changing for the families we serve. Along with the individuals with Down syndrome who attend weekly programming at the playhouse, their family members, grandparents, siblings, and all of our volunteers ranging from 7- 70 years old will have peace of mind that they are in a space that values their safety.

We would like to thank the Project Adam affiliate at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s hospital of Chicago for connecting GiGi’s Playhouse with Big Dreams for Little Hearts. The availability of an AED in public areas is critical.  Similar to Addison, my daughter also has a heart condition; she survived a sudden cardiac arrest due to the use of CPR and an AED. The cardiac risk with a diagnosis of Down Syndrome makes it even more important to be ready with an AED on site.  It warms my heart to see 3 non-profit organizations work together to make this happen for the safety of the participants at GiGi’s Playhouse Deerfield.  Our deepest gratitude to Big Dreams for Little Hearts for this wonderful gift.

~ Cheri, volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse and mom of Grace (SLP intern at GiGi’s Playhouse)

Join us on Friday, December 30th at 10AM as GiGi’s Playhouse Deerfield gives Big Dreams for Little Hearts a tour of their facility and share in our LMNOP (Language, Music, N’ Our Peeps) program teaching infants 0-3 heart themed sign language and songs. Directly following the tour and program, Big Dreams for Little Hearts will be conducting a training for staff, volunteers, and families of GiGi’s Playhouse. Pictures and videos will be available after.

About GiGi’s Playhouse Deerfield®: GiGi’s Playhouse is the only international network of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers providing free life-changing therapeutic and educational programs for all ages. GiGi’s Playhouse started in 2003 when GiGi was only 1 year old.  Today, there are 55+ locations across the U.S. and Mexico and serve families in 80 different countries! With worldwide demand to open over 200 locations, GiGi’s Playhouse is on a mission to change the way the world views Down syndrome and to send a global message of acceptance for all. During the COVID-19 pandemic our virtual education platform, GiGi’s At Home, allowed us to continue our commitment to offer free programming to our families both LIVE and On Demand. Learn more at

About Big Dreams for little hearts®: Big Dreams for Little Hearts was formed in December 2010 as part of an effort to purchase Automated External Defibrillators (AED) for children with heart conditions. Julie and Ron Salski realized the challenges with purchasing an AED after learning their daughter, Addison, was diagnosed with Ventricular Tachycardia. Given doctor instruction to purchase an AED, Julie and Ron realized that that many insurance companies do not cover the cost of an AED which runs between $800-$1,000. Julie and Ron realized that this would be an additional medical expense that some families with children undergoing extensive treatment may not be able to afford. This sparked the vision of Big Dreams for Little Hearts.  The Salski Family has a goal to purchase and provide AEDs to children who are encouraged under doctors’ orders to have home AEDs in case of an emergency.  Along with the AED, immediate family members receive professional training on the use of an AED. Learn more at

Project Adam: Project Adam is a national, non-profit organization committed to saving lives through advocacy, education, preparedness and collaboration to prevent sudden cardiac death. Focused prevention training and education ensures schools and communities are not only equipped but trained in the prevention of sudden cardiac death. Project Adam began in 1999 after the death of Adam Lemel, a 17-year old Whitefish Bay, WI high school student who collapsed and died while playing basketball. Adam suffered a Sudden Cardiac Arrest, in which the ventricles cannot pump blood into the body. Debrillation, or an AED, could have saved his life.

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