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Our Team

Lacie Romie –  President
lromie@gigisplayhouse.org

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 supporters! 

 

Marijo Schwengler – Past President
mschwengler@gigisplayhouse.org

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
nknodel@gigisplayhouse.org

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 Rizzo – Treasurer
financefargo@gigisplayhouse.org

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 
knelsen@gigisplayhouse.org

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!! 

Catherine Mohr - Board Member/ Volunteer Coordinator
cmohr@gigisplayhouse.org 

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. 

 

 

Andy Richards – Board Member, Walk Chair

arichards@gigisplayhouse.org

Current Position:  Owns “In 2 Shape Fitness” a full service, personal training facility in Moorhead, “Three percent holdings”, a real estate company in our metro, and “Pledge Promo”, a full service promotional product, catered to business owners of all sizes, with social media and promotional product designing service in the Red River Valley. 

GiGi’s Draw: The ability to be involved with GiGi's is an extreme honor. This organization has all of the tools and personnel to greatly impact the lives of people who have and are involved in the lives of those who have Down syndrome and I am so excited inspired and excited to help with GiGi's mission. I am looking forward to all that we can do to impact the local and regional community empowering families and individuals to reach new heights. 

Kellie Hamre – Board Member, New Family Coordinator,  Outreach Committee

khamre@gigisplayhouse.org

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! 

Tahnee Ruud – Site Coordinator
truud@gigisplayhouse.org

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. 

You! 

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!