We all have a word (or several) that come to mind to describe the year 2020.  We’ve repeatedly heard unprecedented and challenging. Our lives, jobs, schools and society were completely disrupted. Another word that many of us have lived out is “pivot”. This year has caused us all to pivot or change direction. Whether it’s the loss of a job, or even worse, the loss of a loved one. Or having to adjust to remote school, learning to wear masks, staying physically distant from our friends and family, we all have learned to pivot.  And GiGi’s Playhouse continues to pivot as the current needs dictate to safely provide our programs for individuals with Down syndrome.  

Going Virtual

Here is a quick backstory. Back in March the national network of GiGi’s Playhouses had to suspend 4,400 hours a week of FREE therapeutic and educational programs to our families. This was a huge blow to our participants, but GiGi’s pivoted quickly, launching GiGi’s At Home virtual programs.

GiGi’s At Home allowed us to safely offer our programs that provide connection, learning and fun. And individuals with Down syndrome needed these more than most due to suddenly having no in person school, therapies, or social activities to keep them progressing and achieving their best.  Once we got into the rhythm of virtual programs, our local Playhouse rolled out our own Detroit virtual programs.

Safely Reopening Our Playhouse

Through the summer our COVID Safety Team began plans for when to reopen. Our Playhouse doors reopened in September and slowly started offering safe outside programs for our older participants before we resumed many of our foundational programs this fallWe had many safety measures and protocols that our participants handled like champs! The joy of being back together was so touching to see.  

GiGi's Program with Safety Measures

kids club program

Pivoting Again

We unfortunately had to return to virtual programs only a few weeks later as COVID-19 cases increased in Michigan. New state restrictions required us to pivot again to keep our families safe. Our programs team continues to work hard behind the scenes to meet the needs of our families. We are creating opportunities for our participants to safely connect, learn and have fun. And even though it was so disappointing to have to return to online programs, by November, we were pros at it! 

GiGi's At Home Program Playhouse Pals

GiGi's At Home Program Kids Club

One of our Fantastic Friends and GiGiFIT Adult participants, Luke Tyrrell, had this to say about GiGi’s virtual programs,

“It’s a lot of fun getting to see my friends. I’m liking the virtual programs!” 

Looking Ahead to 2021

We are not slowing down as we head into 2021! We are launching even more new programs. We are excited to have the amazing one-on-one Math Tutoring program joining our one-on-one Literacy Tutoring. GiGiFIT Adult and Teen will continue in January. And we also have the addition of dance and a special drama program launching in January. We are excited about our new partnership with Open Spot Theatre Company. All of these programs will start the year virtually for safety. We know there will be more pivoting as the  year progresses.

Ways YOU can get involved now and in 2021: 

  1. ParticipateHead over to our Calendar to register for current virtual programs and the new programs launching in 2021 – space will be limited! And remember, in addition to our own Detroit programs, GiGi’s At Home has more than 28 live programs each week, and more than 250 on-demand programs created since March 26, 2020.   
  1. Volunteer: Make a difference in someone’s life, by giving an hour of your time as a Math or Literacy Tutor (all training provided – no teaching background needed!) Or check out our Volunteer Orientation to learn about all the different areas to get involved. More information is available on our Volunteer page. 
  1. Donate: COVID-19 not only forced our programs to go virtual, but it also cancelled our in-person fundraising events, drastically impacting the funding of our non-profit. We ask you to consider a year-end donation to make a difference in the lives of individuals with Down syndromeMake your secure, tax-deductible donation today. 

Most likely all of us are looking forward to the end of 2020. And even though life won’t return to back to pre-COVID days on January 1, 2021, we have hope that it will slowly get better through the coming year.  Until then, we will continue to pivot to safely provide our free, purposeful, educational and therapeutic programs for individuals with Down syndrome! Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday!

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