GiGi’s Draw: When our beautiful son Louie was born in July of 2015, he became the first person with Down syndrome that Nick, Vinny and I had truly met. As parents, we had a lot of questions and a genuine need for resources. GiGi's Fargo Playhouse opened September 26th, 2015, and we were welcomed with opened arms by many wonderful parents, family members and friends who have given time and resources to pave the way for us.
In the past 2 years, our family has grown alongside Louie, knocking down every health and learning barrier that we've faced. We are grateful for GiGi's and the friendships we've made along the way.
As the President of the Board and newest board member, I stand committed to GiGi's families, friends and community members. As a Financial Advisor and 12 year military veteran, I bring my unique skill set to our team. My bottom line up front is to ensure that our kiddos have the resources now to teach them to be successful always.
I look forward to meeting all our wonderful families and friends, and generous supporte
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!
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 with two kids, Max and Kate.
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 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.
Education: Elementary Ed, Child Development and Social Work majors. Masters in Curriculum Design and Instruction
Family: Married to Matt Nelsen; Madeline, Birk, Kane and Caroline.
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!
Kellie Richardson Hamre
Vice President, New Family Coordinator, Outreach Committee
Current Position: I work for NDSU as a Senior Lecturer in Interior Design. I practiced commercial interior design prior to delving into higher ed. My professional focus is corporate, healthcare and designing spaces for special populations.
Family: My husband Brandon and I live in Oxbow, ND with our three kids – Connor, Bryn and Isla.
Experience: I was previously on the board for Up with Downs (the local DS organization before GiGi’s). Since GiGi’s opened, I’ve been active as the New Family Coordinator, facilities and in outreach. I am a state liaison for the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network (DSDN) for North Dakota.
GiGi’s Draw: I am very excited to continue serving the amazing families that are part of GiGi’s Playhouse Fargo by being part of the board. My passion and drive to advocate for kiddos and families with different abilities started the moment my husband Brandon and I were blessed with Bryn, our 4-year old daughter who is rockin’ the extra chromosome. She has brought so much light and new-found purpose into our lives and truly is one of my hero’s.
To those families I haven’t met yet, I hope to meet you soon! To those I know, thank you for your support and inspiration. I look forward to helping bring many more amazing opportunities to GiGi’s families as our kids continue to grow and thrive together!
Education: Business Management/Human Resources Degree. Graduate of Fargo North High.
Current Position: Administrative Specialist at Nardini Fire Equipment. I have been there 5 years.
Family: Fiancée Adam and daughter Lanie, 7
Hobbies: Zumba, yoga, bike riding, rollerblading, golf, ice skating, volleyball
GiGi’s Draw: I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and saw the board recruitment social on Facebook. I talked with Marijo and had at first decided not to join the board. She asked me to help out with the walk and after getting to know everyone, I decided that I wanted to help the playhouse out more. I am excited to get to know the families better and set a good example for my daughter by helping to create a better community.
Family: Live in South Moorhead with my husband, Cameron, and our four kids.
Hobbies: Spending time with family and friends, game nights, traveling, camping, spending time at the lake.
Experience: When we were first married we had the wonderful opportunity to be the resident managers at the Ronald McDonald house in South Fargo. That experience opened doors for me to work in home care while my husband finished schooling for Law Enforcement. After having our kids, I began a home-based business and have enjoyed helping others reach personal goals and learning so much about myself. As my kids are getting older I decided I might like to work a few hours outside the home and to meet new people. I met Lacey through a mutual acquaintance, she told me about GiGi's and right away it sounded like a perfect fit for me! I am so excited to be part of GiGi's Playhouse.
GiGi's Draw: I was looking for a Part Time position that would fit with my family's needs. Lacey told me about GiGi's Playhouse and after our meeting I immediately looked up any information I could find about GiGi's. I was drawn in by the love and support and connections that GiGi's Playhouse has with families right in our community. I could feel that tug on my heart to get involved and I am honored and excited to be part of GiGi's Playhouse Fargo team.
Education: Elementary Education, Minnesota State University Moorhead
Family: Married to Mychael, son Mylo, and loving 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.
Mary has worked in the field of Early Childhood Education for many years. I have had the pleasure to work with two wonderful children with Downs Syndrome and their families in the recent past few years. I became a volunteer at Gigi’s Playhouse once it opened. I have volunteered as a leader for the “LMNOP” group as well as a Literacy Tutor. I have been inspired by the children and families I have met at Gigi’s. I very much enjoy seeing the fun, hearing the laughter and seeing all the successes which have occurred because of
the influence of Gigi’s Playhouse. My goal in becoming a Board Member is to facilitate the success, laughter and fun the families and their children experience while at Gigi’s!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk about how you can get in involved!