Our Team

Marijo Schwengler – President

Education: Accounting major and Computer Information Systems minor Minnesota State University Moorhead

Current Position: Controller, CPA for Beverage Wholesalers, Inc. Fargo, ND

Family: Married to Jason Schwengler, 4 boys, Jacob, Andrew, Simon and David

Hobbies: cooking, photography, digital scrapbooking, traveling

Best Vacation Spot: Niagara Falls

Favorite Music: 10th Avenue North, Need to Breath, Mercy Me

Quote: “Ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.” –unknown

GiGi’s Draw: Shortly after David’s birth when I learned he had Down syndrome, my dreams for him were crushed. But with the love and support of family and friends, I quickly learned that David is more like his three older brothers than different. He just needs some more time and attention to achieve his milestones. So now our family is dreaming BIG for David. Why shouldn’t we? GiGi’s Playhouse will give him and all individuals with Down syndrome a place to become the best they can be!


Nikki Knodel – Secretary

Education: PhD: Adult Education; MS: Education; BS: Athletic Training from North Dakota State University

Current Position: Assistant Professor/Clinical Education Coordinator for the Master of Athletic Training Program at NDSU

Family: Married to Bobby Knodel; Max 6 yrs, Kate 1  year

Hobbies:   Reading, Yoga, Cooking

Best Vacation Spot: Aruba

Favorite Music: Pink, Bon Jovi

Quote:   “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11

GiGi’s Draw: GiGi’s provides the opportunities and resources for all individuals to reach their greatest potential. Having a son with Down syndrome, GiGi’s will help him achieve great things and inspire everyone around him.

Joe Rizzo – Treasurer

Joe lives in West Fargo, ND with his wife, Katie Rizzo, and children, Jamie, Benjamin, and Mallory.  Benjamin, our middle child, has Down syndrome.  Joe currently works for a non-profit developer that develops affordable housing.  Joe and Katie joined the Up with Downs family support group shortly after Benjamin was born and has remained active to bring social inclusion to those with special needs.  Joe is thrilled to be a part of creating something special for his son and others for years to come.


Kristin Nelsen – Literacy Chair 

Education: Elementary Ed, Child Development and Social Work majors. Masters in Curriculum Design and Instruction

Family: Married to Matt Nelsen; Madeline 15, Birk 7, Kane and Caroline 6

Hobbies: photography, reading, traveling, spending time at the lake

Best Vacation Spot: Royal Hideaway

Quote: Surely I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. Plans for good not for harm. To give you a future with hope. Jeremiah 29:11

GiGi’s Draw: When Birk was born I remember feeling like we were on this journey alone and I had so many fears of the unknown. GiGis is a place that will bring families together to find the support they need to help their child become the best that they can be!!

Lindsey Muscha –Facility Chair

Education: Business Management B.S and Business Administration minor Minnesota State University, Mankato

Current Position: Administrative Accounting Assistant for West Acres Development Fargo, ND

Family: Married to Brad Muscha, 2 girls, Braelyn (5) and Ariana (2)

Hobbies: Relaxing at the cabin with family

Best Vacation Spot: Anywhere in Europe

Quote: “If it is to be, it’s up to me” – My great grandmother

GiGi’s Draw: After we received the diagnosis of Down syndrome I was determined to give Braelyn every opportunity that a typically developing child would get. Never did I think this would define who I would raise my child to be. GiGi’s Playhouse open doors to people with Down syndrome to give them a place to be with peers and it allows them to live to their fullest potential, all free to the families.


Teri Johnson – Board Member

Education: Doctorate of Medicine from University of North Dakota School of Medicine

Current Position: Owner/Board certified physician at Independent Family Doctors in Fargo, ND

Family: Married to Steve Johnson MD; 2 sons, Blake and Alec

Hobbies: Travel, cooking, sports fan (especially hockey), organizing

Best Vacation Spot: Mexico

Favorite Music: Carrie Underwood, Journey, Maroon 5

Quote: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” -Winston Churchill

GiGi’s Draw: “Having an adult son with Down Syndrome, we are beyond excited to bring GiGi’s to our area. The Achievement Center will help Blake maximize his self-confidence and empower him to achieve his greatest potential.”


Tahnee Ruud – Site Coordinator

Education: Elementary Education, Minnesota State University Moorhead

Family: Married to Mychael, dog Mona

Hobbies: Lake life, Cheering on the Vikings and Bison, Online shopping, Going for runs with Mona, Happy hours.

Quote: “Be who you are and say what you mean, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Suess

GiGi’s Draw: Being involved with GiGi’s is beyond humbling. It’s incredibly inspiring to have the ability to meet these strong families and their beautiful children of all ages with Down syndrome. I’m so fortunate to have the opportunity to work at GiGi’s and excited to meet everyone who walks in the doors and hear their encouraging stories.



As we continue to our increase our impact in Fargo, we need to increase our team!  We would love to have you as a part of our board or committees!  Email fargo@gigisplayhouse.org and let’s talk about how you can get in involved!