After two years of planning, fundraising, promoting, location-scouting and build out, the day had finally come. Sunday, January 27, 2019 was a day our GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit team will hold in our hearts for years to come. With no idea how many or who would brave the frigid temperatures and snow, we were blown away as families, community leaders and supporters streamed through the door. We counted 732 people at our Grand Opening Celebration, breaking a GiGi’s Playhouse record for any of the previous 40 Grand Openings!
Guests were welcomed and provided a swag bag and a GiGi’s Playhouse Passport. As they made their way around the Playhouse, Board Members provided descriptions of the various areas: the Donor Wall, the Family Room, the Tutoring Rooms, Therapeutic Playground, Rec Room and more. Guests collected stickers from each area, and once they filled their passport they could enter into a raffle to win either 4 Red Wings tickets or a WXYZ station tour. As the 2 PM Ribbon Cutting ceremony approached the Playhouse was filled with so many people it was challenging to make your way around.
We had the privilege of having two of our early local champions, WXYZ Reporter Ann Marie LaFlamme and 95.5 DJ Joey Radio emcee the Ribbon Cutting ceremony. GiGi’s Playhouse Founder Nancy Gianni inspired the crowd with her passionate message of “changing the way the world sees Down syndrome and spreading a global message of acceptance for all.” And GiGi herself encouraged us with all the ways she benefits from the programs at the Playhouse. Copies of Nancy’s book #GenerationG were available for sale and GiGi autographed copies for hours!
Listen to Nancy and GiGi’s powerful words! https://youtu.be/AdzGB3CD06M
Three families shared why they are excited for GiGi’s Playhouse coming to Detroit. They spoke of the resources for their children and grandchildren, the connection with families and the positive message it sends to our community.
It was a pleasure to have former Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley join us in the celebration. A noted disability advocate in Michigan, and Dad to a daughter with autism, Calley encouraged the crowd with his words of appreciation for our community and the impact GiGi’s Playhouse will have in Metro Detroit. He hopes to see this as a catalyst to see more GiGi’s Playhouses open throughout Michigan. Other special guests included Southfield Mayor Ken Siver, Southfield Interim Police Chief Brian Bassett, and State Representative Christine Greig.
We closed out the formal festivities with GiGi Gianni and our local self-advocates Luke, Mary, Elizabeth, Blake, Sean & Ben cutting the ribbon to celebrate GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit officially open to serve the estimated 5,000 families who have a member with Down syndrome!
And now that we are open, programs kick off Friday, February 1st. We are launching with foundational programs for all ages from babies up through adults. As we recruit and train more volunteers we will launch more programs throughout the year. View the schedule and RSVP if you and your child plan to attend any of the events in February. Interested in volunteering, sign up here.