Nancy Binger is the Executive Director serving the National Office and the Hoffman Estates playhouse. She previously spent 17 years working at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. Nancy held many leadership roles during her career at Judson including Director of Athletics, Director of Admissions and most recently as the Vice President for Enrollment Services and Strategic Planning. A key part of Nancy's time at Judson was creating and launching the RISE program which is a fully inclusive college experience for students with intellectual disabilities. This program came to life after Nancy gave birth to a child with Down syndrome in the fall of 2015 and she was inspired to give differently abled students the same experience as the traditional students. Nancy lives in the Huntley area with her husband, Chad, and their three children, 7-year old boy-girl twins Camryn and Carson, and 3-year old Cody who has Down syndrome.
With 20+ years experience in operations, performing arts management, and process improvement renovation, Jenny brings her passion and experience to GiGi’s Playhouse.
Jenny graduated with a double major in theater arts and dance from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. While in college she began teaching dance and drama at various performing arts schools in Minneapolis and began working professionally in both areas.
Upon moving to Chicago she accepted a position as an Artistic Director where she developed and grew a successful performing arts school for 17 years. Her areas of expertise include Program Development, Human Relations, Event Management, Mentorship, and Community Outreach.
Jenny and her Husband have been married for over 20 years and live in Huntley along with their 16 year old son- Jett- and their 3 dogs- Sunny, Holly, and Skipper!
She has fallen in love with the Down syndrome community and could not be more excited to join the GiGi's Playhouse family!
Lyndsey graduated from North Park University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and has been dedicated to serving individuals with disabilities since 2008. Having a close familial connection to the disability community sparked her passion for working with individuals that are often underserved and who have immense potential for independence, growth and the ability to impact cultural change.
Filling roles within non-profit organizations, Lyndsey worked as the Studio Manager for the Arts of Life North Shore Studio, a Development Manager at Cure SMA, as Event Manager at the Les Turner ALS Foundation and also as a program leader for both Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association and Maine-Niles Association of Special Recreation.
Outside of Gigi's Playhouse, Lyndsey enjoys relaxing with family and friends, going to the dog park with her pup Bailey and spending time gardening, baking, biking, reading and listening to podcasts.
Mary Jo Shepherd
Career Development Manager
I have been married for 27 years and have 5 great children. My youngest daughter Annabelle was born with Down syndrome which lead me to GiGi’s Playhouse.
I walked into the playhouse in January 2006. My daughter Annabelle was 6 weeks old. I was looking for a place to celebrate my daughter, I did not need or want a support group, I wanted a celebration.
I jumped in right away and was volunteering and helping with special events.
Once Annabelle went to preschool I went back to school for my Master of Social Work. During that time, I was invited to do my internship with GiGI U. They just finished their pilot stage and were ready to welcome their first class.
I fell in love and have been working with the career development program and have worked in all three parts. I was the GiGi U program coordinator, store manager and now career development manager.
I have spent some time working with other mental health agencies, but I have to say that I am in love with our adults.
Hugs + Mugs Store Manager
Michael graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in Sport Management. He worked as a Programs manager for a sports facility and helped facilitate summer camps and an afterschool care program at this location. Michael is currently assisting at the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association with sports programs as well as coaching a Special Olympics Bocce Ball Team.
In his free time, Michael likes to take his dog for walks, spend time with family and friends, and watch the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Cubs.
Karen Russell Owens has worked in Special Education for over 20 years. She has volunteered for many organizations such as Turning Point, IOLS, Refuge for Woman, and Willow Creek. She volunteered for GiGi’s Playhouse for 6 years in McHenry and was their co-chair for their Spring Fashion Show for two years. GiGi’s Playhouse captured her heart from the start.
Karen lives in Huntley with her husband Troy. She has 3 children Tyler, Nicholas, Emilee and two step daughters Callie and Chloe.
She is excited to bring her passion and energy to GiGi’s.