Inside GiGi’s: Our What

What is GiGi’s Playhouse?  We all know we are a Down Syndrome Achievement Center, but what does that really mean?

Well let’s start at the beginning with a GiGi’s history lesson about the evolution of GiGi’s Playhouse from our Chief Belief Officer, Nancy Gianni:

“My 6 year old son, Franco, created our first logo! We started as a Down Syndrome Awareness Center and our tagline was Educate Inspire Achieve. Though, whenever I spoke about the Playhouses I always added the word Believe to our tag line too! As time went on it felt as if the Playhouses were evolving into education and learning centers but those names felt limiting because everyone who walked into GiGi’s grew! Whether it was from confidence, education, therapy, or empowerment everyone including our volunteers were growing and achieving! That was it! We were all achieving and by taking that out of the tagline I could finally officially add the word BELIEVE! So in 2012 with 12 Playhouses open and 10 more scheduled to open within the next year we officially changed the name to GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers with a tagline of Educate Inspire Believe!”

  • 2003 Down Syndrome Awareness Center
  • Tagline – Educate. Inspire. Achieve.
  • 2007 Changed from .com to .org


  • 2012 – Changed name to Down Syndrome Achievement Centers
  • 2012- Changed tagline to Educate. Inspire. Believe
  • 2012- Took the kids out of the logo

  • 2013- Added GiGi University
  • 2013- Tagline Confident U. Healthy U. Whole U.

  • 2016- GenerationG

  • 2020- GiGi’s At Home!!

As GiGi has grown up, so has our organization.  Can you believe that in just 8 short years we have grown from 12 playhouses to 48?!?!?!  That is AMAZING!!!!   What do you think is our greatest accomplishment thus far??  One thing we are particularly proud is how much has stayed the same- even through so much change.

In this newsletter from October 2005 you can plainly see our mission:

“Let’s show them how strong we are!  In this day and age when all you hear bout is how NOT to have a child with Down syndrome, we ant to celebrate having a child WITH Down syndrome at the GiGi’s Playhouse 2 year anniversary party.  Please invite your friends and family to not only celebrate and raise awareness for Down syndrome but to have a free afternoon of food and fun!!  We will supply the entertainment, food, fun and valet parking, you just bring your friends and family”

Look even 15 years ago we are talking about how we are STRONG, how we want to CELEBRATE, how we are INCLUSIVE for the entire family, how everything is FREE to our families, and how we are FUN!

” The little guys will love the petting zoo and pony rides while the bigger guys party and dance!! There is something for all ages!!! Pumpkin decorating, cookie decorating, games, moonwalk, prizes and the list goes on!!!”

Is this, or is this not, an accurate picture of GiGiFEST?  And nothing is changed when we say our participants love to DANCE!!!

“We have invited kids from area schools to stop by for some fun and Down syndrome awareness!  We want them to see that kids with Down syndrome like to party too!! JUST LIKE THEM!! This is a celebration of our kids!  We have a lot of new families, so lets show them how strong the Down syndrome community really is!!”

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that kids from area schools were invited to the 2 year anniversary party!!!  This tradition continues with siblings and peers are encouraged to attend our programs so our participants have a role model, and everyone sees that we are more alike than different.  Oh, and the author of the October 2005 newsletter sure did like exclamation points, just like me!!!

So flash forward to 2020… what are our current parents saying about GiGi’s Playhouse?

Here are some of our “What”s- 

“It’s a place where we go to meet new families and our kids to meet new friends. We feel a sense of belonging and a strong community relationship. We feel the programs and events are beneficial for our daughter. We love our GiGi’s playhouse family!” (Michelle Kosak, parent)

“[GiGi’s] is a playhouse that brings fun and learning where we can show off our own special talents and a great community.  [GiGi’s is] a safe place where I can go to on a rainy day and see the brightness that my son carries all the time in his heart.” (Rubi Nava-Diaz, parent)

Not much has changed, yet so much has changed- we are still about a lifetime commitment to our families with something to offer ALL our families from New Family Orientations to GiGi University, celebrating our best of all moments in our FREE educational, therapeutic and career readiness programs, connecting and forming community relationships with schools and community organizations, and most of all having FUN… and exclamation points!!!!!

-Katie Vaughan, Site Coordinator GiGi’s Playhouse Fox Valley

Leave a Comment