Board Member Spotlight: Kathleen Tynes

For most of our followers, this member of our board needs no introduction. If you’ve participated in any activity at our Playhouse within the last 3 years, you’ve probably interacted with her. If you didn’t receive direct support from her, it’s pretty much guaranteed she was heavily involved behind the scenes. What I’m trying to say is…

What Would We Do Without Kathleen Tynes?!!!

Kathleen has volunteered with GiGi’s Playhouse in one capacity or another since the fall 2011. She began as a tutor and program assistant at GiGi’s Playhouse Atlanta. She then moved to Illinois and quickly became involved with GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago as their Project Coordinator. Lucky for us, she now transcends all the roles here in Detroit!

Kathleen began as our Program Coordinator in January 2020 and joined the board in November 2021. Since then, she consistently goes above and beyond to ensure our programs are running smoothly, our families’ needs are being met, our volunteers feel valued, and our organization continues to grow. However, Kathleen has never confined her skills or energy to within the walls of our Playhouse. She has served on the National Education Committee for many years and recently transitioned to the National Group Program Committee. She acts as a consultant and mentor for GiGi’s colleagues far and wide. She has presented at 3 Educational Symposiums and 3 National Conferences, as well as for inquiring startups to try and launch more locations.

Kathleen is deeply committed to the mission of GiGi’s Playhouse and basically holds our Detroit location together, while making it look entirely effortless with her calm, confident, and humorous nature. She does it all from the goodness in her heart and her core belief that individuals with Down syndrome are people worth investing in.

Take a moment get to know her more below!

What is/was your daytime occupation and where?

Before becoming a stay-at-home mother of two, I taught Special Education for six years. Now I’m the Program Coordinator at our Playhouse.

What are some of your favorite hobbies and interests?

I love to knit! My mom’s sisters and her mother all knit or do some kind of craft and when I’m knitting, I feel close to family, even though I don’t see them often.


What’s a fun fact about you that might surprise us?

My husband and I went to Alaska on our honeymoon. Not on a cruise, we rented a car and drove all over for a week. We’ve traveled to a lot of places, but that’s been my favorite so far!

How did you find out about GiGi’s Playhouse?

My husband and I were out walking around town in Atlanta and just happened to walk past their site. He’s the one who noticed it first.

What inspires you about the mission of GiGi’s Playhouse?

I love that families never have to pay for our programs or services. Unlike outpatient therapies, economic status will not be an advantage or disadvantage in having access to things like Speech Therapy or Math & Literacy tutoring.

Do you have a favorite memory from your experiences at GiGi’s?

One of my favorite memories is actually a reoccurring event: I love seeing volunteers get excited about the participants they work with. Naturally, parents are thrilled when their child masters something, but the volunteers really get to know our participants and become invested in their journey. I love it when volunteers say, “Look what _____ can do! Did you see that?!”

Will you tell us more about your connection to Down syndrome?

I have two younger brothers and one of them, Jacob, has Down syndrome. Coincidentally, my husband’s uncle also has Down syndrome, so I grew up with people diagnosed with DS for most of my life.

What would you say is the biggest misconception about individuals with Down syndrome?

I’m not sure it’s the biggest, but it’s one that bothers me the most: “People with Down syndrome are always happy!” I think those who say this generally mean well. What they don’t realize is, by saying this, they’re implying people with Down syndrome aren’t capable of experiencing other emotions. Try telling my brother he has to get off the iPad and see how happy he is. Watch parents tell their children they have to leave the Playhouse when they’re playing with the toys and see how happy they are. People with Down syndrome get mad when they have something to be angry about. They are empathetic. Their diagnosis has no impact on their ability to feel and express emotions. Saying, “they’re always happy” is really a dig at their intellect.

What would you say to someone who is considering volunteering at GiGi’s Playhouse?

Get ready to have a lot of fun!

So there you have it… the inimitable Kathleen Tynes, whom we are infinitely grateful to have as a Board Member, Program Coordinator, Program Leader, and a million other things, at GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit!

Stay tuned for more Board Member Spotlights in the coming months!

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