My Journey to GiGi’s Playhouse

Serving others has always been a passion of mine. I think that’s how I ended up in the field of Early Childhood Special Education, and most recently, GiGi’s Playhouse. I remember vividly riding my bike at age 10 to a non-profit in my small town that supported childhood cancer. I would tirelessly make copies and stuff envelopes with my best friend Kate. Through my teenage years, I was involved in the Special Olympics as an “official finish line hugger” and volunteered on an allocations committee for the United Way as I continued to develop my passion for serving those around me.

From 2019 to 2022, our family of five took a big adventure and moved to France. I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands, as I wasn’t teaching kindergarten and all of my kids were in school. I “tried” to get involved with local volunteer organizations in Paris, but unfortunately, my French was “très mauvais” or really, really bad. In fact, at one shelter, a very sweet woman offered to teach me French, and I quickly realized that I wasn’t extremely helpful to anyone if I couldn’t speak the language well. So I turned my focus to my other passion… baking. That story is for another day, but I could talk about recipes all day long, and I love to read a cookbook like a novel. Fun fact: My famous sticky bun rolls were a hot seller amongst my Parisian friends.

After we moved back from Paris in Fall 2022, I took a part-time position as a Teacher’s Assistant in Lake Forest Schools. I had the privilege of being a 1-1 assistant for a 4th Grader with Down syndrome. Every day of work was more fun with her in it! We crushed her math goals and worked on those super important life skills like advocating for her needs and spelling her last name correctly.

Around the same time, as life became calmer and my family settled back into our American routine, I had the desire to get more involved locally. I googled “Non-profit near me” late one night, and GiGi’s Playhouse Deerfield popped up in the search results. Upon a quick read of the website and the mission of GiGi’s Playhouse, as well the connection to my new favorite student, I knew this was the place for me to offer my time and talents.

I met Shannon in early January 2023, and somehow, she convinced me (quite easily!) to run the GiGi’s Cooking Club. I hopped right in and haven’t looked back! Once a month, I cook with a kid’s group and a teen group. We practice language skills, review proper hygiene and kitchen safety, as well as nutrition. We usually whip up a tasty and nutritious treat (don’t ask the kids about the cauliflower rice smoothie!) and always have a great time! It’s an honor to support free programming and provide opportunities for growth, learning, and meaningful connections to our participants.

In April, I found out Shannon was looking for a part-time sidekick, or maybe “superhero” would be the better word. Fast forward to today, where I have been serving as the Program and Volunteer Coordinator for the past 4 months. I officially joined the GiGi’s Playhouse family at the end of August, just in time to prepare for the Gala, Bushel of Apples Fall Fest, and Jack O’ Lantern World, while keeping our programs running with fidelity and making sure we have volunteers to fill all of our roles!  It was a wild few first months, but I am always happy to support the Playhouse.  

It’s been an absolute joy to be a part of GiGi’s! From supporting Shannon in the everyday functions of running an amazing Playhouse to meeting and getting to know all of our participants and families. I believe in the mission of GiGi’s Playhouse, and I believe in our families. That’s why I’m here and why I’ll continue to work hard in my role. As I look forward to the upcoming year, I’m excited to be a part of GiGi’s Playhouse Deerfield. I believe in our build and can’t wait to see our new, larger, purposeful space filled with participants and families enjoying our free, life-changing programs. I can’t wait to witness the impact of our programs and see our Playhouse grow and flourish in 2024! If we haven’t crossed paths yet, please stop by the Playhouse or send me a note at cbouy@gigisplayhouse.org. as it’s always a joy to make a new friend!

~Cassie Bouy – Program and Volunteer Coordinator

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