Our First Ever #GenerationG Award Goes To…

Site Director Shannon speaking at Gala

Hello! If you don’t know me, I am the Site Director of GiGi’s Playhouse Deerfield and the only employee overseeing our incredible volunteers, programs and participants. Our mission at GiGi’s is to change the way the world views Down syndrome, the kids and adults we work with put so much love into the world and deserve nothing but love and acceptance in return. Through our FREE programming we work to ensure our participants are ready for the world, but we also have to prepare the world for them.

Inclusion and acceptance are not always the standard which is why we work to educate the community on Down syndrome, differences and what true belonging looks like. We educate doctors and hospitals so they can better give out a diagnosis with the love it deserves and not with fear and sadness, we educate employers on the amazing benefits of hiring people with disabilities, and we speak at schools about connecting to their friends who may be a little different. This part of our mission is called #generationg and it boils down to three pillars; to be accepting, to be generous and to be kind. If those three things were top of mind most days, the world would be a much better place.  

I’m honored today to present our first ever #generationg award to a person or people who have gone above and beyond in kindness, acceptance and generosity. In my almost eight years with GiGi’s (four at our national office and four here at Deerfield) I have been lucky to have witnessed some incredible moments. A scared parent walking in the doors expecting a clinical cold setting and finding love, positivity and empowerment. A child reading out loud to their parent for the first time. First words, first steps, first friends. These moments will stay with me forever. This year one of those unforgettable moments was the return of one dynamic four year old after a year long battle with Leukemia. If you don’t know, children with Down syndrome are at an increased risk of developing leukemia than their peers.

While facing what is a parent’s worst nightmare, Laney and her family took on this mountain with strength and courage. Where many of us would crumble, Laney’s family looked to support others going through this difficult time. This year instead of resting, they became the go to people for our playhouse. The speaker for our Golf outing cancelled last minute, Zec stepped up. We wanted to do a Mom’s night out, Kelli planned and coordinated the whole thing. Even crazy texts like “what do you think of hand reverse tie-dying hundreds of sweatshirts and sweatpants to sell at the playhouse” was met with “let me figure it out!”.

I believe some of their strength comes from the incredible network of people they have around them. Laney’s Grandma was a huge part of putting together the event for example. When looking at the pillars of Acceptance, Generosity and Kindness, there is no one better fit than the Jagmin family.

And so, we want to honor Laney and her family at the playhouse. A diagnosis like cancer impacts everyone in the family. Laney’s sister Macy also had to go through a year of days without her sister, her parents, and their comfortable routine. We will be putting a plaque next to our family welcome area to designate it The “Sibling Center in honor of Macy and Laney Jagmin”.

Laney standing in front of the plaque!

I recognize that it is not all that exciting to have me hand out this award though, so we HAD to have Bachelor, Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise stars come all the way out to our event to give this award, and roses 😉. Thank you to Kenny and Mari for joining us, and to Zec, Kelli and all their friends and family for showing what #GenerationG is all about.

Thank you!

Kelli and Zec with Kenny and Mari from Bachelor in Paradise
Taking cardboard cutout Laney into the photobooth
Jagmin Family and Friends with the Bachelor and Bachelorette

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