Christina Patskin is a former GiGi’s Playhouse Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator Intern. She graduated from the University of Florida in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Health Science degree. She is currently pursuing her Masters of Occupational Therapy at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. We’re honored for her to share her experiences with us at GiGi’s Playhouse in this blog post.
To Join Generation G check out the Volunteer section of our website!. Our next volunteer orientation is scheduled for Monday, August 27, 2018 from 6-7:30pm at the playhouse! See you there!
Join Generation G!
– by Christina Patskin
GiGi’s Playhouse will always have a special place in my heart. I was an active volunteer for ten months. I found out about GiGi’s Playhouse through walking by GiGi’s in the shopping center off SW 34th Street in Gainesville, Florida. After stopping by the playhouse, I immediately became intrigued in coming to the volunteer orientation because I believe in GiGi’s mission, which is “to change the way that the world sees Down syndrome.” After the volunteer orientation, I wanted to become an active volunteer at GiGi’s through community activism to initiate change and advocate for acceptance. Discrimination and exclusion of individuals with disabilities is still evident in society and I wanted to help create awareness and acceptance through educating the public about viewing individuals with disabilities as beautiful and capable. When I see an individual with a “disability”, I see them as a “person” who is successful, skillful, and brilliant. To help facilitate change, I wanted to become a spokesperson for individuals with disabilities and inspire them to be the best they can be. Through my passion for change, I advocated for educational and supportive programs for individuals with disabilities as an active GiGi’s volunteer and intern.
As a volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse, I worked with GiGi’s leadership and parents to support effective therapeutic and educational programs geared towards children and adults with Down syndrome. I facilitated purposeful group activities to engage the participants and enrich their social interactions. Within a week of volunteering, I had the tremendous opportunity to act as a spokesperson for GiGi’s Playhouse at two major events including the Five Years of Kicks at Balance 180 and the 4th Annual UF Accessibility Expo at the University of Florida.
Through my experience at GiGi’s, I honed my interpersonal skills through speaking to diverse populations and impacted many facets of people. I believe that my work left a positive impact on the community’s awareness of therapeutic and educational programs for individuals with Down syndrome. I believe that I encouraged and inspired individuals with Down syndrome and families through the free GiGi’s programs, just as they encouraged and inspired me. I believe I motivated my peers at the University of Florida and individuals at community organizations about the benefits of volunteering at GiGi’s and advocating for awareness and acceptance. I believe I made an impact for the better.
Within one semester, I applied for and was awarded an intern position as GiGi’s Community Outreach Coordinator. In this role, I worked within the community to educate, support, collaborate, and advocate for individuals with Down syndrome. I educated the public through speaking about the free educational and therapeutic programs offered for individuals with Down syndrome. I supported by networking with key stakeholders (pediatric offices, therapy offices, and local organizations/centers). I collaborated with the GiGi’s Volunteer Coordinator to facilitate participation and represent GiGi’s Playhouse at many community events including the UF Education Fair, Santa Fe Volunteer Fair, and Special Needs Resource Expo. I advocated through media by sharing about GiGi’s on special segments of WCJB- TV 20 News on two different occasions. Through my community outreach involvement, I left an educational impact of awareness of GiGi’s Playhouse programs to pediatric offices, therapy offices, local organizations/centers, families of individuals with Down syndrome, and individuals with Down syndrome.
To future volunteers at GiGi’s Playhouse, I want to encourage you to volunteer at GiGi’s because this opportunity will allow you to utilize your strengths and talents to advocate for individuals with Down syndrome. Your experience can start as being an active volunteer and learning more about GiGi’s, which can extend your interest to taking on leadership positions. From looking back at my experience as a volunteer and an intern, I have grown professionally in my career path towards Occupational Therapy. As a future Occupational Therapist, I want to take a holistic approach that encompasses the diverse needs of the patient and the family, such as medical background, culture, and preferred treatment. I want to be a positive and motivating role model as an Occupational Therapist to individuals with disabilities and their families. Through my experiences at GiGi’s Playhouse, I have grown into a mature individual who has a strong passion for advocating to include, integrate, and motivate individuals with disabilities to have an optimal quality of life.
I hope that through this post, I have inspired you to Join Generation G and volunteer your time and talents with a beautiful organization that believes and actively works to change “the way that the world sees Down syndrome.”