GiGi’s Playhouse

Annual Report 2021

Because of you… 

Our programs are FREE.
We are helping people with Down syndrome live longer and healthier lives.
We are empowered to achieve the unimaginable.

During these most challenging of years, we fought, both as an organization and as a community. And look at all we’ve accomplished. 


Dear Friends

THANK YOU! Because of you and donors like you, GiGi’s Playhouse has triumphed over the unprecedented tumult of 2020 and 2021.

GiGi’s Playhouse relies on our donors to provide purposeful, progressive, and FREE programs to individuals with Down syndrome and their families. Because of you, we’re now reaching new parts of the world, helping previously unserved communities, never letting our families down. Because of you, GiGi’s Playhouse is stronger than ever.

Leading a 99% volunteer-run organization through a pandemic forced us to dig deep. Our only choice was to think big, innovate, and automate…so that’s what we did! Today, we have Playhouses in 55 locations and serve families in 77 countries with our free programs. Our Virtual Education Platform, GiGi’s At Home, allows us to serve beyond our playhouse walls and into new and underserved communities that desperately need us. Plus, we created and launched an amazing Learning Management System (LMS) to train our army of volunteers and will soon release our My GiGi’s app. 

Companies like Microsoft, Bain & Co., Voya, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, and others are partnering with us to bring new innovation through technology, Artificial Intelligence, STEM, and strategic playbooks. They are also investing in the future of people with disabilities through our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative,

But please don’t think we made it through COVID without casualties. 

Our families needed us more than ever, and we were there for them. GiGi’s At Home provided the much needed programming for our families, but the physical isolation resulted in regression in many areas, as well as a great loneliness for our parents and kids. And as hard as we worked, we were still down more than $2 million in revenues. 

Three volunteer-run playhouses lost their physical locations (and are struggling to rebuild), our Fargo location was destroyed by fire, and our Sacramento location was vandalized with hate language. And in the world at large, our kids were still denied transplants, subjected to late-term pregnancy terminations, and faced great injustices.

Do not fret, the injustice only fuels us to fight harder! Eighteen years ago when I promised GiGi I would make the world a better place for her and all of her friends, I honestly had no idea how I was going to do it. I really didn’t know that amazing people like all of you were out there to help me every step of the way. I can never thank you enough. 

GiGi’s isn’t just a place... it is people, people like all of you who continue to believe in us and help us change the world. 


Thank you, and we love you all!

Nancy and GiGi

Because of you...


GiGi’s is the only international network of Down syndrome achievement centers

  • 400K+ people live with Down syndrome, impacting millions of people
  • 55 locations across 24 states + Mexico + 200 inquiries worldwide
  • Virtual footprint serving families in more than 77 countries
  • 29% annual growth 
  • 99% volunteer-run
  • 5% general & administrative expenses
  • All therapeutic, educational, and career programs are 100% free to families
  • $16.4 million in revenues network-wide in 2019; down to $14.4 million in 2020 due to COVID
  • 3,500,000 annual website pageviews
  • A replicable hub-and-spoke model with centralized resources and tools
annual impact metrics

Because of you, we had the courage to host the 2021 GiGi’s National Leadership Conference in-person! It was a five-day leadership extravaganza! Amanda Booth (model and actress) was incredible as our keynote, and high school students from our Cleveland and Annapolis locations talked about the GiGi’s Youth Boards they created at their schools! Plus, we had a “Pop Up Podcast” booth and an onsite video studio, enabling us to capture the voices and excitement of our attendees. We can’t wait until next year!


257 attendees
85 speakers
78 sessions
77 countries
61 locations
5 days
1 voice

“We walk through the doors and are safe. Safe from judgments, side-eye glances, frivolous expectations, comparisons, and needing to explain.”

- Amy, Lael’s Mom (Cleveland)

The GiGi’s Training Site (Learning Management System)

Our network is thriving because of thousands of volunteers across the country. In fact, our network is 99% volunteer-run, with over 9,000 volunteers! To keep everyone at the top of their game, we launched a new training platform this year, and our volunteers and employees have embraced it.

  • Game-changing Learning Management System
  • Quizzes to check for understanding
  • Ability to earn certificates
  • 2+ years in the making!
training by the numbers

Technical Overview

The GiGi’s Playhouse hub-and-spoke model is powered by world-class software. Our technical team integrated these platforms to create a seamless automated training site with an exceptional user experience.


99% volunteer-run 

For every one staff member, we have 100 volunteers! We needed to build an LMS to train them all!


Because of you...

Free programs

FREE Purposeful and Progressive Programs


GiGi’s programs are now facilitated both virtually and safely in-person

1st quarter
3rd quarter
2nd quarter

GiGi’s at Home:

  • 1,500 program videos 
  • 67,000+ views of on-demand programs to date 
  • Serving families in 77 countries!

“(GiGi’s is) a safe place where I can be me and feel great about it!”

- Joshua, participant (NYC)

One on One Programs

"Gabriel’s teacher recently approached my husband and said “I just wanted to let you know that Gabriel had me laughing all day today, he really is a funny kid and smart.” He then added, “I want to commend those who taught him to read, they did an incredible job! He’s a real joy to have in my classroom.”

While the adage, “it takes a village to raise a child”, is cliché, it appropriately articulates Gabriel’s story. Gabriel works hard. Gabriel’s village, among the long list of teachers, therapists, family members and friends, includes GiGi’s Playhouse. 

GiGi’s literacy curriculum is specialized to meet Gabriel’s needs and their amazing volunteers all have supported Gabriel’s abilities and supported his learning. The literacy program at GiGi’s Playhouse in particular has reinforced and increased his sight words and vocabulary, as well as improved his comprehension and phonetic learning. GiGi’s Playhouse is supporting Gabriel’s learning today and continues to be an intricate part of his village!

Thank you GiGi’s Playhouse!!!"


Deanne Elsey, Gabriel’s mom
GiGi’s Playhouse El Paso

In the 1980’s, the life expectancy of people with Down syndrome was 25...

Today, with the right support, our Adults are living beyond 60! 

The leading cause of death for people with Down syndrome is Alzheimer’s. 

Research suggests programs like ours may help curb early-onset Alzheimer’s and help our participants live healthy, fulfilling lives!

program numbers

Health and Wellness become more important than ever

Our FREE GiGiFIT programs combine physical therapy with a strong fitness focus and an ultimate goal of success and improved movement. Six specific programs for every age group; infant to adult and caretaker too!

“GiGiFIT starts with a warm-up and then moves into a variety of workout activities. Each week there were different skills that Cody worked on. From the beginning session to the last we could see real change in Cody’s physical strength. He is climbing, running, catching, and throwing better than ever. On top of this, he is enjoying the structure and learning a variety of new exercises and activities.”

—A GiGi’s parent

GiGiFIT Logo


A new nutrition program, Beyond GiGi’s Kitchen, that will complement our health and wellness routines!

Because of you...

We’re growing

New Playhouses in 2021


Because of your friendship, financial support, and advocacy, we opened FOUR new playhouses in 2021!

More will soon follow, including Cincinnati OH, Las Vegas NV, Orange County CA, Portland OR, and Simi Valley CA. These playhouses are destined to become thriving members of their communities, not just serving people with Down syndrome, but changing hearts and minds throughout their regions. 

New communities served - Rural, Urban, & International

Our virtual educational platform, GiGi’s At Home, allows us to reach previously unserved populations across the country and around the world.

  • 67,000+ views of on-demand programs to date
  • Families in 77 countries!
  • Virtual delivery now represents 10% of all literacy and math tutoring network-wide!
  • 12 weekly group programs for all ages
  • Continually growing  

Our forthcoming Virtual Playhouse will be the largest Playhouse in the GiGi’s network! We are building virtual communities to serve the needs of thousands of families, regardless of where they live. 

“Learning more about the opportunities and programs offered at the playhouse gave us a sense of relief and hope.”

- Megan and Clayton, Corbyn’s Parents (Wausau)

Standards of Execution drive sustainability 

To support our tremendous growth, we have created new Standards of Execution (SOEs). They establish benchmarks in every aspect of playhouse operations, from programs to human resources, marketing to board strategy.  


By The numbers

  • 198 Standards of Excellence Reviews in 2021
  • 79% Baseline or above
  • 45% at Strong or Center of Excellence!

At our National Leadership Conference, our Tampa location was the first to earn Center of Excellence in all areas of our Standards of Execution! 



Because of you...



The “A Little Something Extra” video podcast is catching on!

We debuted our new video podcast, the FIRST video podcast co-hosted by an individual with Down syndrome! From A-list actors to athletes to everyday people, we have something for everyone! Most importantly, we celebrate each guest’s “something extra,” which is the piece of you that truly makes you who you are.

Our hope is that we will empower, uplift and motivate our audience with each episode. Our goal is to have viewers and listeners join us in the mission of spreading global acceptance for all!

A Little Something Extra by the numbers

7,000+ downloads

16 episodes and counting

Current Episodes

Ep 1: Justin Jackson

Ep 2: Amanda Booth

Ep. 3: John C. McGinley

EP 4: Tom Ricketts

EP 5: Dennis Dixon

EP 6: Ashley Williams

EP 7: Nic Novicki

EP8: Elana Taylor

EP9: Meeka Caldwell

EP10: Dan Keplinger

EP11: Jamie Brewer

EP 12: Craig Blackburn

EP 13:Mike & Linda Mussallem

EP 14: Dr. Brian Chicoine

EP 15: Sarah Gordy

EP 16: Amy Smith


Educator Symposium 

We took a step toward changing life in the classroom for our kids this year. We hosted our first-ever Educator Symposium, held online and reaching around the world. This program detailed the best educational approaches for children with Down syndrome, providing teachers with the understanding and skills they need. More than 200 educators from across the country participated, and some universities provided professional continuing education credits to all. Our next Educator Symposium will be held on March 5, 2022.

When we take care of our kids the way they need, and when we make the world a more accepting place, we are creating a brilliant future for everyone. 

“Watching (the educator) symposium really lit a fire under me. I realized there was a gap in my son’s education... We are really excited to start this tutoring journey virtually, and hope to one day soon visit GiGi’s in person.”

People are talking!

All across the world, people are sharing stories of their local GiGi’s Playhouse! 

Because of you...


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives for schools, corporations, and the community

Our work on global acceptance took a major step forward this year! We launched, our new flagship public awareness initiative.

People across the world are visiting the site and taking the #GenerationG pledge, which is to “be accepting, be generous, be kind” every day.

Pledge-takers then go on their social media channels to spread the word. Because “changing the world is in the

palm of your hand,” we’re asking participants to draw a G-heart in their palm, and post a picture of it online!

More than 250,000 people have taken the pledge so far! One great way to see the momentum is to search #GenerationG on social media channels! You’ll typically

see dozens of posts not just about the pledge itself, but how people are living #GenerationG every day!

Schools, communities, and corporations are also embracing the movement and becoming #GenerationG-certified! We’re teaching them all about

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for people with disabilities, and they’re uniting classmates, neighbors, and co-workers to support the GiGi’s mission!


The #GenerationG community has more than who have taken the pledge for global acceptance!

1 Take the "I Accept You" Pledge below

2. Draw a heart with a G in the center in the palm of your hand

3. Take a selfie with your GenG hand

4. Post to social media, tag #gigisplayhouse #GenerationG


The GiGiFIT Acceptance Challenge is a physical and social movement for acceptance. We live in a world that is often separated based on differences. The GiGiFIT Acceptance Challenge brings people together regardless of race, gender, diagnosis, sexual orientation, or religion. We need universal ACCEPTANCE for all people and we want you to join.

GiGiFIT Acceptance Challenge 2021

250k participants

174 countries

25 million social media reach

60+ in-person events

…and just wait until you see what we can do in 2022! Get ready for next year’s events, which will launch on World Down Syndrome Day, 3-21, through 6-12.


By the Numbers


GiGi’s Playhouse is a 99% volunteer run, donation-funded non-profit organization that takes pride on running itself like a business.  General administration only counts for 5% of our functional expenses and our programs are FREE!

Like every business, the pandemic affected our bottom line. We didn’t let that stop us: we used the adversity as a springboard to diversify our programs and our program delivery, pivoting to virtual program delivery within weeks of the global shutdown, reaching many previously underserved rural and urban communities in the US, and growing the GiGi’s family to encompass individuals and communities in 77 countries.

Now, even as we welcome individuals and families back to our physical playhouses, we have significant ground to cover to meet our projected financial needs both now and in the future. In addition, resources above and beyond our original projections are needed to strengthen our virtual programming, which has become integral to the lives of those who lack access to a physical Playhouse location.

It is only with the friendship, advocacy and support of our donors that GiGi’s Playhouse is able to change the way the world views those with Down syndrome, and send a global message of acceptance. Thank you.


Thank you for your support!

Make a donation 

Take the pledge 

Bring a friend to
GiGi’s Playhouse

See the difference
YOU make!


A Grandfather’s Pride

"I am the grandfather of Jay. I have seen first-hand how GiGi’s Playhouse has treated my grandson and all children that pass through their doors, with love, affection, caring, understanding, and teaching with early intervention to help promote better lives for these children’s futures.

It is incredible how (GiGi’s) has done all of this on pure donations alone; they have never asked or pressured any participant for money."

And because of you...

Our programs will ALWAYS be free!


“We have seen a tremendous improvement in our son. His movements, character, and emotions have been greatly impacted by our interactions in the LMNOP program. We have also received resources that have allowed us to connect with other families with children with Down syndrome. It’s a huge support knowing that there is an organization like GiGi’s out there willing to help and care for families like us!” 

- Maria M., GiGi’s Parent