Volunteer Spotlight: Lauren Leotti

We are incredibly fortunate to have Lauren Leotti on our team of volunteers, faithfully supporting our programs and operations as an assistant with Drama Troupe, GiGiFIT Toddler, and LMNOP, as well as tutoring individuals in Math and Literacy.

Lauren brings unparalleled intelligence, patience, creativity, and warmth to her relationships with participants, while holding high standards and expectations – which is what we are all about!

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Lauren has a Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience and previously worked as a Therapist and Interventionist for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. After moving to Detroit, her former work fueled her passion to seek out GiGi’s Playhouse. When she is not volunteering, Lauren works as a Developmental Psychology Researcher for Rutgers-University Newark.

Lauren is fabulous at meeting participants where they are and bringing out their #BestOfAll. We have witnessed her stay with an energetic 7-year-old while he zoomed throughout the Playhouse, appearing to engage in everything except his lessons – only to demonstrate his knowledge of the material with mastery, because she was right beside him making the exercises relevant to whatever he showed interest in. We also recently overheard Lauren say to a young man, “You don’t have to talk if you don’t feel like it. I just want to know if you understand the lesson. There are plenty of other ways you can show that you know the material, and I am here for it. We’re in this together.” This sort of compassion and humanity is what we ALL need in relationship, and it truly helps these individuals glean the most from our purposeful programs. Imagine if all educators were as dedicated, patient, and resourceful as Lauren!

In addition to the incredible work Lauren does here, she also brings her two sons to volunteer with programs. Both Will and Bobby are excellent with children and it has been especially sweet to watch them support the toddlers in LMNOP.

Please enjoy this brief interview with Lauren, by Elie Kim!

Hi Lauren, How did you get involved in GiGi’s Playhouse?

I learned about GiGi’s in Cleveland, initially. When we moved to Michigan, I was so excited to see the famous GiGi’s logo while driving past our Detroit location. My family immediately reached out to get involved. 

What makes GiGi’s so special to you?

I love bringing my sons to help out at the Playhouse. They love working with the little ones and I’ve seen them mature and grow by developing relationships with participants here. 

What is the best part about volunteering at GiGi’s?

My favorite part is witnessing all the growth and achievement! 

Other than working with folks at the Playhouse, do you personally know someone with Down syndrome (family or friend)?

My niece Elle is a baby fashionista with designer genes!  

How has volunteering at GiGi’s impacted you?

Going to GiGi’s is the best part of my week! Everyone involved in GiGi’s is so welcoming, supportive, and collaborative. I get to learn from everyone, which helps me grow as a friend, educator, and clinical professional.

What are your hobbies or interests?

I love watching my kids play football and basketball, and I really enjoy any sort of brain puzzles or escape rooms. 

We are so grateful to Lauren, for all the good she does in the world, and especially in our Playhouse!

Are you feeling inspired??

We have plenty of volunteer opportunities that would certainly suit your interests and time allowance. Please join us for our next volunteer orientation, Saturday, December 2nd, from 9 – 10:30am. If you have any questions, email volunteerdetroit@gigisplayhouse.org or call the Playhouse at 248-557-9899.

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