GiGi’s was like oxygen for me

Elena and her husband had been trying to become pregnant for nine years. They had almost given up hope when Elena decided to take one last pregnancy test. The test came back positive. Very early in her pregnancy, they were diagnosed with Down syndrome and hydrocephalus (water on the brain), and her doctor asked if they wanted to go forward with an abortion. She said that was what was recommended. They told her no. A neurosurgeon assured them that hydrocephalus is not only not life-threatening but also very treatable.  

After their son, Dylan, was born, they brought him home, and they realized before long that he had no social contact apart from his immediate family. Elena did not have much social life either. She said, “I had no support. I had lost my mom and was feeling very lonely and very isolated.” On Easter Sunday, they took him to a Down syndrome event. There Elena saw this beautiful little girl with Down syndrome named Lacey. She was the same age as Dylan but was healthy, bubbly, and bright. Lacey asked Elena, “Have you been to GiGi’s Playhouse?” They had not, but her question prompted them to visit.  

When Elena walked into GiGi’s Playhouse for the first time, she saw so much hope. She did not have any hope before that. She said, “I was grappling for it and praying for it, but I did not believe it. In my heart, it was hard to see a future. That visit was the first time I did. I thought to myself, ‘We can get Dylan there.’”  

GiGi’s was like oxygen for me. 

Once she started going, she never stopped. She said, “It was like oxygen for me. It was like I could breathe every time I walked into that place.” They started learning a little sign language to help Dylan connect because he could not speak. She said, “He would get so excited he would start kicking. GiGi’s is a place where he feels almost invincible. He loves it when people cheer for him. Every time we walked in the door, people started cheering for him. People would call him by name. They would clap for him. They would call him a superhero as if he were a famous person!”  

GiGi’s fills my soul. 

Without GiGi’s Playhouse, they would not have had the support, the love, and the guidance that sustained them. She said, “It helped my son, but it helped me too. I can be so tired, so exhausted, so stressed out. GiGi’s fills my soul.” Dylan’s best education has come from GiGi’s. Dylan has been in both a public school and a private school, but Elena said his best education has come from GiGi’s.  

When we go to GiGi’s, I see the future as limitless. 

Elena said, “We see a future for my son, and it is limitless. Limitless. The world wants to limit our kids. But when I go to GiGi’s, I see something different. I see limitless. I want the whole world to know about my son because the world is a better place with him in it.” 

We are not serving all those who come to us 

As we near the close of yet another year, I have both good news and bad news to report. First, the good news. We have done an extraordinary job of promoting our free programs. One of the most exciting ways is through our first magazine. Another is through our My Extra Chromosome campaign, honoring people who were born with “a little something extra.” As a result of these and other efforts, we are now growing at the rate of 280 families a month! We are helping thousands of individuals like Elena and Dylan.  

But, unfortunately, I also have some bad news. There is now so much demand for our free programs that we do not have the capacity to serve all those who come to us. And that breaks my heart. 

Consider the following:  

Program: Participants Enrolled Matched with a Tutor NOT Matched with a Tutor 
Literacy 758  424 (56%) 334 (44%) 
Math 521 216 (42%) 305 (58%) 
Speech 572 393 (69%) 179 (31%) 
Total 1,851 1,033 (56%) 818 (44%) 

I am saddened to know that there are more than 800 individuals like Dylan who need literacy or math tutoring or speech therapy who cannot turn to us for help. Imagine how isolated participants who are not able to talk and share their feelings with others. Imagine how cut off they feel from all those around them. 

End of Year Appeal Goal: $100,000 

The goal of this end-of-year campaign is $100,000. I am thrilled that a generous donor has offered to match your donation. That will double the impact of your gift! I am appealing to you to make the most generous donation you can. We rely solely on free-will donations from supporters like you. This year we celebrate our 20th anniversary. With your support, we will continue empowering the Down syndrome community for another 20 years with our free programs. Thank you! 


Nancy Gianni, Chief Belief Officer and GiGi’s Mom 

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