GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers impact lives everyday. We make a life time commitment from prenatal all thought adulthood.

We are very proud of our GiGi’s Internship Opportunities– The GiGi’s Internship Opportunities provide GiGi University graduates with an 18-week internship to practice and master career skills. Throughout this internship, interns receive individualized, hands-on training applicable to a variety of work experiences in the community. Training focuses on the development of customer service skills, professional communication skills and work behaviors, computer skills and much more! At the conclusion of the internship, interns receive referrals to potential fields of employment, based on their strengths and interests-all with the goal of partnering with the family to help interns obtain community-based employment.  Hugs & Mugs is a retail and online store run by adults with Down syndrome who have graduated from GiGi University.  Hugs & Mugs creates gifts from the heart: personalized mugs printed with artwork and photos-your design or ours-you choose!  Adults from GiGi University are involved in running ALL aspects of the business-design, production, food prep, baking, packaging, and customer service.


Today we want to share with you the story of Nicole and how GiGi’s Playhouse adult programing has affected her.



Years ago, Nicole used to walk to meet the school bus. Along her route, students and neighborhood children would throw rocks at her, and call her unspeakable names. Like anyone subjected to such bullying, discrimination and hate, Nicole began hiding herself away. Retreating from school experiences and friendships. Then came GiGi’s Playhouse.

Nicole began spending time at the original Hoffman Estates Playhouse in the “Friday Friends” adult social program. Nicole began to experience acceptance again though Playhouse activities and friendships, yet she was still very shy and communicating was a struggle. Nicole was still in a cocoon. Then came GiGi University and Hugs & Mugs.

Nicole was chosen to participate in the GiGi U and Hugs & Mugs pilot program – essentially a research & development activity at first inception. Initially frustrated by requests to provide artwork for mugs, Nicole was consistently encouraged and inspired by Nancy, her peers and her mom Diana. Then Nicole, driven by the will to show she was capable to achieve, drew the most beautiful butterfly.

GiGi's Playhouse

Rediscovering and reinvigorating her own strength and potential, Nicole smiled widely, spoke out with pride, and has never looked back. Nicole is now a graduate of the inaugural GiGi University program, a mentor at Hugs & Mugs to other adults with Down syndrome, a prolific artist, a LEADER, and an ambassador for Generation G. Nicole continues to benefit from the many lifelong commitments that GiGi’s Playhouse makes to all participants; expanding her talents at Hugs & Mugs as well as advancing her verbal communication skills through the Amina Grace Speech & Language Program.

With Acceptance, Generosity and Kindness, anything is possible. Cocoons reveal beautiful butterflies. Human beings spread their wings, and transform vulnerability to bravery. Nicole is our hero!

Nicole is Generation G and we are so proud! 

You can find Nicole’s designs at our Hugs and Mugs location or online in our shop. All proceeds from purchases is directly used to continue purposeful adult programing at GiGi’s Playhouse.


As we continue to build our Hugs & Mugs blog we would love to hear from you. How has Hugs & Mugs impacted you or a loved one? Have you had a great visit to Hugs & Mugs? Are you willing to share pictures of you and your Hugs & Mugs purchases?  We want to see it all, please share with Heather at


GiGi's Playhouse

Be Accepting. Be Generous. Be Kind.

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