A Board Member’s Reward: Laughs & Smiles

Cindy, Charlotte and Doug

Cindy and Doug Atkinson with their granddaughter, Charlotte

Each month we’re featuring a guest blog post from one of our board members and volunteers! This November, our Board President, Doug Atkinson, shares more about his experience with GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne. 

When our first granddaughter Charlotte was born with Down syndrome, my wife, Cindy, and I knew that we wanted to give her every opportunity possible in her life.  Charlotte’s Dad, Nick, gave us some information about this place called GiGi’s Playhouse, a Down Syndrome Achievement Center.  Cindy and I went to visit the Hoffman Estates headquarters and met with the founder, Nancy Gianni.  After that meeting and learning about all that GiGi’s Playhouses offer to the Down syndrome community, we knew had to bring a playhouse to Fort Wayne.

We immediately began the process of pulling together a start-up group. Other parents and grandparents and interested parties stepped up, all with the same passion and focus.  With a common drive to succeed, we opened the playhouse in a record 10 months from our first meeting.

My favorite experiences occur every day at GiGi’s. As a board member, I feel that we are paid with the laughs and smiles of our participants and the tears and gratitude of their parents. It doesn’t get any better or enriching than that!

Volunteers that desire to offer their time and talent to a GiGi’s program will be fulfilled in ways that they can’t even imagine.  Formally, GiGi’s provides an opportunity for the volunteer to assist in ways that may benefit their college or professional career, may fulfill their personal passion of caring for people, or may just introduce them to a network of people that have the similar interests.  Informally, GiGi’s will provide any volunteer a lifelong bond with the many participants that walk through the GiGi’s doors every day.

GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne is so important for the Down syndrome individuals, their families and the community.  The free programs are tailored for individuals of all ages. We provide the tools and the opportunities for education, therapy and wellness.   We provide many experiences, like our onsite Genesis Health Bar, that give the individuals skills that they can use at home or potentially on the job.    We continue the experiences by providing as many opportunities as possible to showcase those talents within the community through outreach, community participation and job-placement.

As a product of a common passion and focus, our playhouse provides so much for the community.  I am so proud to be part of GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne.

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