“The presumption of success and the absence of fear is driving the success of GiGi’s Playhouse in 2020! I am witnessing unprecedented disruption and innovation in a time of crisis like I’ve almost never seen.”
– Bret Bowerman, GiGi’s Playhouse, Inc. Executive Board
Letter from Nancy
2020 has been a year of challenges and silver-linings, but it was not a time to push PAUSE! Perseverance and determination have kept us going!
Shutting down 60 GiGi’s locations and startups when the pandemic hit in mid-March was terrifying. Canceling 4,400 hours a week of free therapeutic and educational programs was beyond heartbreaking. Then canceling over 50 GiGi’s events that were responsible for 76% of our spring income was devastating. How would we survive? We pushed PLAY!
It makes my heart happy to share the incredible journey of innovation that has kept GiGi’s Playhouse moving forward during these unprecedented times, ensuring families could still receive free therapeutic and educational programming when they needed it the most.
We could not have done it without the support of incredible donors, volunteers, Playhouse families, and supporters like YOU who jumped right in with us as your lives were turned upside down too!
Thank YOU for fighting for our kids every day, even during a pandemic!
Thank YOU for believing in our message of Global Acceptance.
Thank YOU in advance for all the miracles to come.
And thank YOU for being accepting, generous, and kind!
I am proud for what we have accomplished together, although I still worry about what is to come with a 40% decrease in funding. Every program at GiGi’s Playhouse is 100% FREE to families and individuals with Down syndrome, so cost will never be a barrier to achievement! But they are not free to US.
We need your continued support! Will you help keep our programs educational, purposeful, fun and FREE to families with the gift of a donation? Your support will make it possible for individuals around the world with Down syndrome to learn, grow, and feel accepted now, and far into the future.
This holiday season I wish you health, love and happiness! Watch this 2-minute video to see what YOU helped us build. Every day is a blessing and new beginning. No matter what the coming days, weeks, months and even next year brings… GiGi’s Playhouse will be here for you!
P.S. We need your help! Due to the pandemic, our fundraising is down 40% network wide. There’s still time to make an impact at your local Playhouse – please DONATE today!
Table of Contents
GiGi’s At Home: LIVE and On Demand virtual programming is here to stay!
While GiGi’s At Home was born out of necessity, we are excited to say we will continue to offer LIVE virtual programs, build upon the library of On Demand Programs and work to enhance the platform. We are working hard to keep our families healthy, safe and strong—wherever they are!
We need you now more than ever as we have assumed significant costs by offering virtual classes. At GiGi’s Playhouse, we’re committed to providing classes for FREE. Please consider supporting GiGi’s At Home today!
“For us, GiGi's has been the one constant thing during this pandemic which says a lot.”
GiGi's At Home by the numbers since March 2020
"I would describe [GiGi’s At Home] as an awesome layer of support in a time where we didn’t know what school was going to look like, we didn’t know when we were going to go back. GiGi’s stepped right in seamlessly and helped us with that. … It was awesome because I knew he was getting everything he needed. We participated in LMNOP and other therapeutic programs. It was developmentally appropriate for him. It gave him the push that he needed while still giving him a level of comfort and support that he needed as well." - Kelli C.
Pick up a 5-pack of Lock Laces(R), the original no-tie shoelaces, for a special price of $25 for friends of GiGi’s Playhouse. Lock Laces will donate 25% of your sale back to GiGi’s to help support our mission!
A Look Back at 2020’s Twists and Turns!
The first two months of 2020 were business as usual! We were excited to open our 48th Playhouse in Lancaster, PA, attended multiple book signings and corporate luncheons and had the opportunity to participate in multiple speaking engagements. We even hosted GiGi’s “A Little Something Extra” Annual Gala, which raised $700,000 for Down syndrome! Then the pandemic hit and on March 13 the Playhouses were shut down to the public as a matter of safety for our families. We went from providing 4,400 hours of free programming every week to setting our sights on getting GiGi’s At Home programming online as soon as possible! With enthusiasm and excitement still building, we pushed through the hard times to launch Step To Accept, open two more Playhouses, held our first ever virtual National Leadership Conference with record-breaking attendees, and are about to open Playhouse #51! What an extraordinary year!
Take a look at our incredible journey to ensure we could provide free, therapeutic and educational programming to our families when they needed it the most.
GiGi’s by the Numbers
- 17 years old!
- 50+ locations across 23 states in the US & Mexico
- 10 more locations in the works
- 35% annual growth in families served
- 200+ new Playhouse inquiries worldwide
- 176,000+ volunteer hours annually
- 25,000 families directly served in 28 countries and growing
- 24/7 virtual programming (LIVE and On Demand) through GiGi’s At Home
- 50+ free therapeutic & educational programs
- 230,000+ FREE program participation hours annually
- 99% volunteer run
- 5% general and admin network wide
“Online literacy tutoring, – has allowed him that one-to-one support while being supported by someone who knows what they are doing.”
Grand Opening of Lancaster, PA Playhouse #48
GiGi’s “A Little Something Extra” Chicagoland Gala
Playhouses closed due to pandemic; 4,400 hours a week of free programming cancelled
First National GiGi’s virtual event for World Down Syndrome Day
GiGi’s At Home LIVE and On Demand virtual programming launched
Step To Accept, a 60-location virtual fundraiser was launched
Step To Accept made history, logging 1 BILLION+ steps for Global Acceptance
Grand Opening of Buffalo, NY #49
Grand Opening of New Orleans, LA Playhouse #50
GiGi’s first virtual National Leadership Conference
Grand Opening of Wausau, WI Playhouse #51
Picking up the Pieces
Cancelling over 50 GiGi’s fundraising events that were responsible for generating 76% of our spring income network-wide was devastating. To support our Playhouses and ensure we could continue to provide free programming through GiGi’s At Home, we came up with a new game plan and quickly launched a 60-location virtual fundraiser just 29 days after closing our Playhouse doors!
GiGi's virtual Step To Accept Run/Walk/Ride made history on Saturday, June 6, 2020 by logging over ONE BILLION steps for Global Acceptance! Participants helped us get to the MOON and back – TWICE!
3 NEW PLAYHOUSES!
While some doors closed amid the pandemic, other doors opened. THREE brand new doors to be exact! Thanks to the efforts of dedicated Board members and supporters, GiGi’s Playhouse is now serving families in even more communities this year with many more to follow!
#50: New Orleans
Sacramento CA, Wausau WI, Portland OR, Long Island NY, Miami FL, Denver CO, Cincinnati OH, Orange County CA, Tulsa OK & Las Vegas NV
“GiGi's really is like coming home to a family.”
GiGi’s Free Purposeful Programs: In-Person and Virtual Options
Your health and safety are important to us! We are cautiously re-opening Playhouses and following strict safety protocols per national, regional, and state guidelines for each location. As the pandemic and shutdowns continue, make sure to call your local Playhouse to find out if you’re able to schedule an in-person visit or use our amazing GiGi’s At Home programming! Either way, we are here for you!
1 on 1 Tutoring and Therapy:
- 1:1 Literacy
- 1:1 Math
- GiGi’s Amina Grace 1:1 Speech & Language Program
Career Training & Adult Continuing Education:
- GiGi Prep
- GiGi U
- GiGi's Career Studio & GiGi Professional
Group Therapeutic-Based Programs:
- Destination Discovery
- Crawlers & Walkers
- Leaps & Bounds
- Playhouse Pals
- Kids Club
- Teen Tastic
- Fantastic Friends
“My son has this place and these people that he can count on forever. It is humbling. I don’t always know what to do with that kind of love and support."
Let’s toast to yesterday’s achievements and tomorrow’s bright future.
We look forward to all that 2021 will bring! New Playhouses. New events. New opportunities to create a more accepting world for individuals with Down syndrome and their families! Stay safe and healthy and keep an eye out for great things to come in the new year.
Support the GiGi’s Playhouse Mission!
Every program at GiGi’s Playhouse is 100% FREE so cost will never be a barrier to achievement! But our programs are not free to deliver. There is an ever-increasing demand to expand our free therapeutic and educational programs, all designed to help improve participants’ speech, literacy, math, wellness and career skills. Our growth is fueled by individual donations, corporate giving (employer match and program partnerships), and institutional and planned giving (stock, grants, bequests). Thank you for your support in changing the way the world sees Down syndrome.
A Heartfelt Thanks to our Volunteers!
GiGi’s Playhouse would not exist without the hard work and dedication of our outstanding volunteers. “Thank you” is not enough to say how grateful we are to everyone who has given the gift of time to inspire the hopes and dreams of participants and families at GiGi’s Playhouse.
Will you join us in making a difference in the life of an individual with Down syndrome? From tutoring, to assisting behind-the-scenes for programs and events, we have a place for you.
Attend our next virtual Volunteer Orientation on December 2, 2021 to learn how you can get involved both in-person and virtually.
“As far as GiGi’s, oh my goodness, there’s excitement and there’s acceptance. It is the most welcoming place. We were driving an hour. It didn’t matter. We were driving an hour to get Sam to that kind of environment where he can make friends and have special opportunities. But, when we learned GiGi’s was going to start the [GiGi’s At Home] online programming, that has been wonderful! He does yoga. He does GiGiFIT. He started with the music! This has been so great. He gets to sing and play his guitar. That has been a great outlet for him, too. I’m just very grateful.” - Suzanne H.
2020 National Leadership Conference Goes Virtual
Stronger Together through Innovation, Automation and Empowerment
Each year, GiGi’s dedicates 4 days of training and development for our National network of 60+ Playhouses and startups at our Leadership Conference. Attendees include 500+ playhouse volunteers, staff and board members who came together for networking and learning opportunities related to our mission. This was our largest conference ever, and the first-time we went virtual. See our highlight video below!
Thanks to our partners at
Our FREE GiGiFIT program combines physical therapy with a strong fitness focus and an ultimate goal of success and improved movement.
Thanks to the support of Microsoft and Evolv, and their invitation to join their Hackathon for a second time – we are working toward an Artificial Intelligence-powered GiGiFIT! Not only will AI capture valuable data on each individual with Down syndrome, but the program will be gamified for participants to use at-home! With specific physical therapy-based components for every age level, from infants through adults, it helps participants build strength, endurance, power, joint stability, balance, and movement control. This incredible gift from Microsoft and the brilliant minds that joined us for the Hackathon is a great COVID silver lining! We are are excited to bring GiGiFIT online to reach even more people.
Apply Now to Join Our In-Person GiGiFIT Classes at Your Local Playhouse!
GiGi’s Through the Years: A Promise Kept
When GiGi was born, Nancy made a promise to her that she would change the way the world looked at a person with Down syndrome; that she would help people understand that she and all her friends were so much more than a diagnosis. With the help of people like you and the Playhouses across the world, that promise is being kept – not just for GiGi but for all our children. As we celebrated GiGi’s 18th birthday this year and opened our 50th Playhouse, we couldn’t help but look back at all of the amazing memories through the years!
“GiGi’s at Home keeps her very busy, very motivated. The other silver lining in this whole thing is that she really learned to schedule her week.”
Thank You to Our Corporate Partners
Amina Grace Memorial Fund, Aspire, Clover, The Coca-Cola Company Coleman Foundation, Evolv, Foglia Family Foundation, Lock Laces, LuMind IDSC Foundation, Microsoft, MIT, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, NHK World Japan, Northwestern University, OneCause, SalesForce, Verboso, Voya Financial
Stay tuned in 2021!
A new Learning Management System (LMS) for staff and volunteers
A New GiGi's Playhouse App
A Little Something Extra with Nancy Gianni and THE GiGi Podcast!