Doug Atkinson, President
Doug and his wife, Cindy, live just north of Fort Wayne in Fremont, Indiana. After a career in sales and marketing, Doug recently retired. As the proud grandfather of 3 year old Charlotte, he realized that the best way to provide as many opportunities as possible for Charlotte was to be a part of bringing GiGi’s Playhouse to Northeast Indiana. Doug and Cindy have six children and four grandchildren, with Charlotte being the oldest. Originally from Wisconsin, Doug is experiencing the Midwestern community spirit and generosity in Fort Wayne with their outpouring of support for GiGi’s Playhouse.
Jennifer Mihuk, Vice President
Jennifer lives in Ft Wayne, Indiana with her daughter, Lydia. Jennifer is a Registered Nurse and works at Lutheran Hospital Emergency Department and also is employed by EPIC Home Health and provides Pediatric skilled nursing to patients in their home.
Jennifer first learned about GiGi's Playhouse when she met Nancy Gianni at a National Down Syndrome Convention about 10 years ago. Jennifer remembers thinking, how amazing GiGi’s Playhouse sounded and wanted the same for Lydia and other individuals with Down syndrome and their families in Ft Wayne. When she heard there was talk about a GiGi's Playhouse coming to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Jennifer was more than willing to help make this dream come true!
GiGi's Playhouse is a place for Lydia and others with Down syndrome to learn and achieve their goals, have fun, meet friends and impact their community. GiGi's Fort Wayne is also a place for parents to learn from one another and support one another. GiGi's Playhouse Fort Wayne is going to be a Place where dreams are made and achieved. I am so honored to be a part of this magical place and look forward to seeing all that happens at GiGi's Playhouse Ft Wayne!
Jason Rice, Treasurer
A Fort Wayne native, Jason attended Ball State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in corporate finance. After Ball State he joined the Tippmann Group, where he was responsible for managing the financial performance of large capital projects, both internal and external. Jason joined Ambassador Enterprises in August of 2015, serving as a senior financial analyst on the Treasury and Finance team. Jason is an active parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Fort Wayne.
An avid Notre Dame fan, Jason enjoys spending the summer months at Coldwater Lake with his family playing Euchre, soccer, and golf.
Lorri Meyer, Secretary
Lorri graduated from Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio, with a Bachelor of Science in Business Education and was a substitute teacher in the Northwest Allen County school district for many years while raising her two children. She has served on various Boards and committees and, being a breast cancer survivor, organized golf tournaments to raise money for Breast Cancer research. Lorri was honored to chair the first annual GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne gala in May, 2015, and will chair the “i have a voice” gala in April, 2016. Lorri has been involved with GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne from inception after being drawn to the mission and looks forward to helping spread positive awareness about Down syndrome. When not volunteering her time to various non-profits, she enjoys jewelry making, babysitting her new grandson, and spending time at her family’s lake house with family and friends.
Cindy Atkinson, Events and Fundraising Coordinator
When Cindy’s precious granddaughter, Charlotte was born with Down syndrome, she made a vow to her that she would make her life as amazing as she could. Cindy and her husband, Doug, learned about GiGi’s Playhouse and knew they wanted one in Charlotte’s town. Cindy has a background in non-profit management, fundraising, sales, and interior design. Cindy and Doug had just retired and had the drive, the passion and the time to devote to opening GiGi’s Playhouse in Fort Wayne. They gathered the board filled with parents, grandparents and friends. Eleven short months later GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne opened. Cindy has never been prouder to bring this to Charlotte’s life and all the others with Down syndrome. God has blessed Cindy and Doug in so many ways, they have a community that will embrace GiGi’s Playhouse. To all the generous individuals, corporations and foundations who believe in GiGi’s Playhouse, thank you. Miracles will happen in Fort Wayne, IN.
Stacie Christle, Outreach Coordinator
Ever since Stacie’s daughter, Kylie, was born 10 years ago she has loved being able to talk and meet with new families that have babies born with Down syndrome. Stacie is a registered nurse in a Neonatal ICU and loves being able to personally take care of so many new babies. It has been a dream to have a GiGi's Playhouse for Stacie’s daughter and she is now so blessed to be a part of bringing and opening one in Fort Wayne. Stacie was born and raised in Fort Wayne. She and her husband have 4 children and love spending time as a family.
Katie Watson, Communications Coordinator
Katie lives in downtown Fort Wayne with her husband and two sons. Her three-year-old has Down syndrome. Katie has worked with diverse groups of young people through public schools, community groups and churches. Currently, she works as the Sunday School Director at her church and is a freelance curriculum writer. Katie looks forward to getting involved with GiGi’s programming.
Amy Guilliam, Member at Large
Amy was born in Defiance, Ohio and moved to Ft. Wayne with her husband Stan over 5 years ago. They have two children and 6 grandchildren. Jackson, Amy’s 4 year old grandson, was born with Down syndrome and has truly been a blessing to his entire family. Amy is excited to be involved with GiGi’s Playhouse and feels that Gigi’s Playhouse offers many programs and opportunities for those of all ages with Down syndrome in the Ft. Wayne community and is a great support system for their families. Amy enjoys golfing, reading, going to the beach and most of all spending time with her children and grandchildren.
Lauren Clark, Programs Manager
Lauren is super excited to become a part of the GiGi’s Family! Lauren lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana with her husband Wesley. Lauren found a passion for individuals with Down syndrome when she was in high school. She went to The University of Dayton and studied Special Education. She has taught in both the middle school and high school setting since graduating college. She has found a passion for finding new ways to teach children. Her goal for the playhouse is to have everyone walk out the door with a smile on their face and a love for the playhouse. Just like the Gigi’s motto: she wants to help others educate, inspire, and believe.
Mandy Drakeford, MA, APR, Executive Director
Mandy joins GiGi's Playhouse Fort Wayne with more than a decade of experience in fundraising, marketing, public relations, and digital communications. Prior to joining GiGi’s Playhouse, Mandy held an executive leadership position with SCAN, Inc., serving as Chief Philanthropy Officer. She also served on the senior team at the Levine Museum of the New South and held marketing positions with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation and the University of Cincinnati Foundation. Mandy also teaches courses as an adjunct instructor for the University of Cincinnati and the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Mandy attended the University of Cincinnati where she earned her BA and MA in Communication.
Mandy resides in Fort Wayne with her husband and two sons.