President: Lisa Kocab
Vice President: Denise Moore
Treasurer: Heather Sullivan
Secretary: Amy Tyrrell
Additional Board Members
Site Coordinator: Kaitlyn Wojciechowski
Program Coordinator: Kathleen Tynes
Volunteer Coordinator: Allie Plancon
- Governance Committee: Denise Moore
- Outreach: Amy Tyrrell & Dawn Conn
- Programs: Suzanne O'Leary & Kathleen Tynes
- Marketing & Communications: Jocelyn Cook
- Fundraising & Events: Ashley Caza
- Facility: Lisa Kocab
My name is Wendy Arabo. I am an interior designer and have owned my own company for the past 17 years. I am now Managing Cercan Tile USA located at the MI Design Center. I’m a mother to 3 wonderful children. My oldest Rio is a surgical tech, my youngest Reno is an attorney and my middle daughter is Mary is 26 years old and has Down syndrome. When Mary was born, my late father told me “God has blessed you with the most amazing challenge” and a blessing she is to me, her siblings which she is extremely close to and our entire family. Owning my company has afforded me the opportunity to be involved in my children’s school, from being a room mom, PTA, sports, Forensics and fundraising events. I was also involved in DSG fundraising and other projects. Spending time with my family brings me most joy. I enjoy traveling, reading and going to the movies. My family and are committed to support GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit in any way we are needed. GiGi’s offers Mary a wonderful community of her pears to belong to!
Ashley Caza lives in Beverly Hills with her husband, Bob and their children - Bella (17), Abbie (16), Darin (11) and Zac (6). Ashley graduated from Central Michigan University with a BFA in Graphic Design and Photography. A freelance Art Director of 20 years, she has worked with a wide range of clients on an even wider variety of projects. Her career path has afforded her the opportunity to be involved in many areas of her children’s lives - PTA, sports booster, running carpool, etc… As a founding member for GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit, Ashley is very proud every time she walks into the Playhouse. “The Playhouse has become an essential part of our community. I am so proud to be a part of the team that brought that to fruition! I look forward to seeing how the Playhouse continues to grow, the new relationships we make and all the beautiful faces that walk through our doors!”
Jennifer Champion is the founder of JAC Connects LLC, a firm dedicated to helping companies realize and reach key decision makers as well as target markets while simultaneously branding their organization. Clients include both traditional and non-profit organizations as well as individual professionals. Prior to dedicating herself full time to JAC Connects, Jennifer served as the vice president for several non-profit organizations throughout southeastern Michigan. Including Junior Achievement, Inforum, and the Detroit Regional Chamber in addition to serving in a Business Development role for several traditional companies as well. Jennifer has participated in and completed several professional sales training courses and is a graduate of the Executive Leadership program as well. Continuous learning is something Jennifer believes strongly in. Creating opportunities for children to gain access and exposure to their full potential along with providing exposure to the wide variety of career opportunities that exist within our communities drives Jennifer professional and personal life. This passion is the driving force behind her engagement with organizations such as GiGi’s Playhouse.
Hello! My name is Jocelyn, Cook and I live in Birmingham with my husband Chris and our daughter Julia (9) who has Down syndrome. Shortly after Julia was born I became an advocate for inclusion and early intervention for children with Down syndrome after experiencing the large disparity families were facing in access to support services for their children. Serving on my school district Inclusion Task Force and with Friends of Different Learners, a support organization in our school district, have provided an avenue to help families navigating the unique needs of their children. Professionally I am the Director of Marketing and Client Services for a local therapy clinic serving children and teens with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs, which merges my personal and professional experience in an amazing way. I joined the GiGi's Playhouse Detroit start up team in 2017 and have supported our efforts since then with marketing and strategy for our events and Playhouse initiatives. Our local Metro Detroit area now has an incredible resource for families impacted by Down syndrome and I'm excited to be serving an organization changing the way the world views Down syndrome!
I live in Royal Oak, MI and have two boys, Robby (18) and Christopher (16, w/ DS). I've been involved in the local Down syndrome community for over 16 years, helping to organize fundraising events and writing and editing newsletters and promotional literature. I have a background in marketing and I'm currently looking for a full time job.
Jeff Harper is a Principal Training Engineer with MathWorks. He teaches people across the country how to use the MathWorks software for engineering and science applications. He has a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Michigan State University, and an MBA from Walsh College. Jeff is a co-inventor on two U.S. patents. In his spare time, he likes to visit amusement parks and ride roller coasters, having ridden more than 900 different coasters. He is the proud father of two beautiful children, Katie and Grant.
Kim lives in Southfield, MI with her husband Jeff, daughter Katie (11), and Grant (9). Grant was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, securing their spot in the lucky few. Kim is a 1990 graduate of Michigan State University and 1996 graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School. After 15+ years in the title business, Kim turned her attention full time motherhood. In her spare time she enjoys doing DIY projects and being an independent fashion retailer for LuLaRoe.
My name is Colleen Holmes. My husband Mark and I are Michiganders and have one daughter, Elizabeth. We didn’t know that when Elizabeth was born that she would have Down syndrome. I can’t imagine our lives without her, she is amazing. I’ve been a board member of GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit since the start-up. Over the past 22 years I have also worked with Joni and Friends SE MI, DSG of SE MI, and the Parent Advisory Cmte of Oakland County through Elizabeth’s middle and high school years. I am grateful to have the opportunity to meet other families who care for loved ones also affected by disability. Our life’s passion is to help build a place for families to belong, to be understood and provide them with the resources to grow and be successful. GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit does just that. Our lives are enriched beyond measure being a part of GiGi’s.
I am Elizabeth Holmes, age 22. I go to Troy Center For Transition, a post-secondary school. I love it! I work at different job sites several days per week with my team of students and my job coach. It’s awesome. I am so happy about GiGi’s Playhouse. I go there to meet my friends for Fantastic Friends and I exercise with GiGiFIT. GiGiFIT helps me get a routine of exercise and good eating habits…it’s my favorite. Plus, the reading tutoring w/ my volunteer Mary was fun too. I am a young lady who has Down syndrome. My family tells me I can do anything I put my self into. That’s why I really like being a self-advocate to show my friends it’s important to speak your mind and be proud of yourself. I like being on GiGi’s board with my other friends who are self-advocates too.
Proud life-time Michigander and Mom to one awesome young man who keeps me busy with his shenanigans, dancing, horseback riding, sports, photography and all things SpongeBob! He is the light of my life and driving force behind all I do! When we aren't looking for something fun to do like exploring our awesome state and taking pictures in downtown Detroit, I am a passionate advocate and activist for Down syndrome, women's, kids and equality issues. National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) Ambassador. Small business owner and background in nonprofit support and leadership. My activism also includes participation at varying levels of campaign teamwork and support.
Dave Kocab graduated from John Carroll University in 1994 and earned his J.D. from the University of Michigan in 1997. He is currently Associate General Counsel at Aptiv, a global automotive supplier, and lives with his wife Lisa and their five sons in Brighton. Their fifth son, PJ, was born in 2011 while the family lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. PJ’s diagnosis of Down syndrome was a surprise and Dave and Lisa struggled to find anything they could about PJ’s extra chromosome and the possibilities for his future. When Lisa discovered GiGi’s Playhouse, the two immediately decided to bring one to Milwaukee and formed the team that opened the first playhouse in Wisconsin in 2014. Their family relocated back to the Detroit area in 2016 and began work with a new team to bring the first GiGi's Playhouse to Michigan in 2019. In addition to his involvement with GiGi’s Playhouse of Detroit, Dave coaches his sons’ sports teams whenever he can, including football and basketball. Dave has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit since 2011, helping with a multi-million dollar campaign to a open their new state-of-the-art animal adoption and education center in 2018.
Lisa lives in Brighton with her husband David of 23 years. Together they have five children, all boys, ranging in age from 22 years down to 9 years old. Their youngest child, PJ, has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism. Lisa has been teaching on and off since 1994 and currently teaches fourth grade in Brighton Area Schools. Lisa was the board chair for the special education advisory board for the Mequon-Thiensville School District while her family was living in Wisconsin. Lisa was the board president and the led the start up and opening of the Milwaukee playhouse. Lisa and David returned to Michigan two years ago and feel so blessed to have such a great group families that have bonded together to open the first playhouse in Michigan.
Denise lives in Birmingham, Michigan with her husband Bob and three children – twin sons Evan and Kyle and daughter Amber, who has Down syndrome. Denise graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in Business. Denise’s professional background is commercial insurance underwriting. After the birth of her daughter, Denise quit the insurance business and became a special needs advocate. From 2012 - 2016, she served on the Board of Friends of Different Learners (a special needs PTA for Birmingham School District), 2 years of those years as President. In addition to serving on the steering committee to open GiGi’s Playhouse - Detroit, Denise runs Disability Awareness Workshops for all 4th grade students in the Birmingham School District. Denise and her family are excited to have a GiGi's Playhouse in Detroit, and are especially glad it offers programs for people of all ages.
I am a proud Detroiter, born & bred! I’m also a Spartan, having earned a BA in Employment/Labor Relations from Michigan State University. I have worked for the State of Michigan for the past 32 years, 14 as a Probation Officer and entering my 19th year as a Regulation Officer with the Michigan Gaming Control board.
In 1992, I was blessed with the gift of becoming Blake’s mother. Our journey has presented an awesome opportunity for personal growth and appreciation. Blake’s growth and happiness became my primary concern and our village’s chief aspiration. We set out to create opportunity for Blake to have experiences which would instill and enhance self-esteem, grow his awareness and self-advocacy, perpetually develop his independence and his confidence in the fact, he too deserves “a seat at the table”. Blake and I have always sought opportunities for ourselves and to enjoin others’ participation in groups and activities which would increase awareness, exposure, growth, inclusion and acceptance not only for Blake and myself but for our family, friends, neighbors and our community, at large.
I had the pleasure of serving as a board member of VSAMI, the local arm of an international arts agency started by Jean Kennedy Smith of the Kennedy Center which provides opportunity for artistic growth and expression of individuals with varied disabilities. I also had the great opportunity to represent the Children’s Hospital of Michigan (CHM) Family Centered Care Advisory Council as the parent representative to the CHM Quality Assurance Committee.
I became aware of GiGi’s Playhouse at its beginning thru one of Blake’s Godmothers who resides in the Chicagoland area. With the current challenge of identifying and accessing adult opportunities for Blake and his peers, I was excited to hear GiGi’s had made its way to Michigan and wanted to contribute to the development of this great resource for our Down syndrome community.
Suzanne lives in Birmingham, Michigan with her husband Paul. They have 4 children: Shannon, Sean, Colin and their youngest Riley who was born with Down syndrome. Suzanne has a Masters in Public Health (MPH) and Doctorate in Epidemiology (PhD) but after Riley was born she chose to focus on advocating for special needs and helping her family. Suzanne has served as a Board member of Friends of Different Learners (Special needs organization for Birmingham Public School), LINKS coordinator at BPS, YMCA Special Needs Committee member and Buddy Walk chair for Down Syndrome Guild of Southeast Michigan. Suzanne has been on the board of GiGi’s Playhouse since the start-up phases and has had the incredible opportunity to witness the generous support and love of this community who made it possible for GiGi’s Detroit to open its doors in January 2019. She has also had the opportunity as Program Coordinator at GiGi’s to watch the families and dedicated volunteers work together to help children and adults with Down syndrome reach their potential and fill them as well as their families with hope, opportunity and love.
Allie recently moved back to Troy after attending Grand Valley State University. She received her bachelor’s degree in Marketing. Since moving home, she has started working for United Shore, as a Business Innovation Specialist. She is excited to meet so many new volunteers, who are as excited about what GiGi’s Playhouse provides as she is!
Heather Sullivan lives in Beverly Hills MI with her husband David. They have two children, Katie (23) and Sean (19). Heather has a Master of Accounting and Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan. She has worked at PriceWaterhouseCoopers for 30 years and is currently an Assurance Director in PwC's Private Company Services practice.
I grew up in Michigan and graduated from Michigan State with a BA in Special Education. I moved to Atlanta, GA straight after college and taught special education for 6 years. I became a stay at home mom after the birth of our 1st daughter and we moved to Chicago to be closer to family. In preparation of the birth of our 2nd daughter, we moved to Royal Oak to be even closer to family. I have a very strong passion for GiGi’s Playhouse. I have a brother who is 25 years old with Down syndrome; my husband has an uncle with Down syndrome and we’ve spent many years coaching Special Olympics. I discovered GiGi’s in Atlanta where I was a literary tutor and started their math program before I moved. After getting settled in Chicago I started volunteering at their playhouse with their tutoring program. I took a part time position there as their project coordinator. It was very hard to leave Chicago, but I am so excited to get to know the Detroit families and volunteers!
Amy Tyrrell lives in Beverly Hills MI with her husband David of 23 years and her children Luke (20) and Daniel (16). Amy is an Executive Recruiter and has had her own business since 2007 called Zeal Recruiting Services. She has worked in corporate and agency settings leading recruiting functions since 1994 in the metro Detroit area after graduating from Michigan State University with a BS in Employment Relations. She is active at both boys activities and schools.
My name is Luke Tyrrell. I’m a self-advocate on the Board at GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit. I have 1 younger brother Danny, my parents are David and Amy, and we also have a golden retriever name Ziggy. My family rocks! I am an Assistant Literacy Tutor for a young boy. I also participate in many programs at GiGi’s like Fantastic Friends and GiGiFIT Adult. I attend a post-secondary program with job training through Birmingham Public Schools.
Kaitlyn lives in Shelby Township with her husband Anthony. Kaitlyn graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies. While attending college Kaitlyn supported herself nannying, which is where her love for children developed. In her free time Kaitlyn enjoys playing golf with her husband, creating DIY home decor items, and browsing the aisles of Target. Kaitlyn is excited to be a part of how GiGi’s Playhouse impacts the lives of individuals with Down syndrome.