Board Member Spotlight: Lisa Kocab

Today we’re featuring the one and only, LISA KOCAB. This is the woman, the mother, the teacher, the advocate who moved to Metro Detroit from Milwaukee in 2016, looking for services for her son, Pj. Unsatisfied with what she found at the time, she brought with her the passion and enthusiasm that motivated a small group of families to dream, collaborate, and persevere to bring our Playhouse into existence. Not only is Lisa the one who spearheaded this venture, but she also served as our Board President for 6 years, before passing the baton to Denise Moore last month.

Lisa will travel to the ends of the earth for GiGi’s Playhouse and the families we serve, and she does it all with a smile, while mothering 5 energetic sons, and teaching full time. Many have exclaimed, “I don’t know how she does it!” And it’s true… Lisa is an incredible force with a heart of gold; actively creating change within our local community and beyond.

Please take a moment to get to know Lisa more below!

Hi Lisa, let’s start with your day job – what is it that you do and where?

I am a special education teacher with Brighton Area Schools.   

What are some of your favorite hobbies and interests?  

I love cooking and boating and watching whatever sporting event my kids are playing.

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

I have 5 children – ALL boys!! 

When did you first get involved with GiGi’s Playhouse?  

I first got involved in Milwaukee after my son Pj was born. It was 2013.   

How did you find out about GiGi’s Playhouse?

Pj had some big health issues when he was a baby. After we got through his health concerns,  I turned my focus onto ways to help him cognitively. I was sitting in bed one night on my laptop looking for different programs in the Milwaukee area to help us. I couldn’t find any. I took a break from my search and began reading Facebook. While on Facebook, I saw a picture posted of a beautiful little girl with almond shaped eyes. I clicked on her picture and was taken to the GiGi’s Playhouse website. I was entranced. I saw all the programs they offered and made the decision to drive down to Chicago every week to access their services for Pj.

That’s when I saw the button on the website that said, “How to Open a Playhouse Near You.” I found a great group of people to work with in Milwaukee and we opened the first GiGi’s Playhouse in Wisconsin. Just after we celebrated our one-year anniversary, we learned my husband’s employer was relocating us back home to Michigan. But God was still directing my life and I was quickly introduced to Denise Moore. Denise turned out to be very well-connected in the Down syndrome community here in Metro-Detroit.  She assembled some families together to learn about GiGi’s and thus began the opening of GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit.   

What is your specific role on the board? 

I led the steering committee through the different stages of opening the Playhouse and I was the board president. I only recently stepped down as president and handed the reigns over to Denise. I will continue to focus on programs, networking, and fundraising. I have no doubt the Playhouse will continue to flourish and grow under Denise’s leadership.  

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

There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes – work that most people don’t even realize – and it’s all done by volunteers. When you look at the number of volunteer hours given to provide all our free programming – it’s overwhelming!

Do you participate in programs and/or events? If so, which ones?  

I have participated in every event, and even co-chaired a few. I attend Kids Club with my son Pj. I have tutored in math and literacy, I have led LMNOP, and I currently lead Playhouse Pals.  

How has GiGi’s Playhouse impacted your life?  

You can’t help but feel happy when you are in the Playhouse. It has been through GiGi’s Playhouse – both here and in Milwaukee – that I have learned important information I will need as Pj grows older. It’s been such a comfort to have parents of children older than mine helping me down an unfamiliar path.

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

I think too many people have low expectations of people with Down syndrome. I have heard “he won’t be able to do that” or “he doesn’t understand that.” My experience working with hundreds of children and adults with Down syndrome – they can do FAR more than people give them credit for, and they understand WAY more than we realize.   

Why do you believe people with Down syndrome are an important part of our community? 

I believe people with Down syndrome have so much to give and we have so much to learn from them!! 

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

Just do it!!  You will NEVER regret giving time to these families!! 

Do you have a favorite quote? 

 “In a world full of darkness – be the light”.   – Errica Rae

Is there anything else you would like to add?  

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit journey!  We are stronger together! 

Lisa! It is impossible to adequately express how grateful we are for everything you have done for our community. On behalf of our board, staff, volunteers, families, and most of all – participants, THANK YOU.

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