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A Word from the CBO - Nancy Gianni

Nancy and GiGiHello, GiGi’s Change Makers!

WE DID IT!!! We’ve long known Alzheimer’s is the No. 1 killer of individuals with Down syndrome, but despite this, people with DS have been shut out of EVERY Alzheimer’s study... until now! Eli Lilly just announced they’re inviting people with DS to participate in a clinical trial of a new Alzheimer’s drug! This is a GIANT victory! Our kids are finally getting a seat at the table!

This news is a great way to kick-off summer! I love this time of year! Our Playhouses are not just filled with our participants, but also their siblings, friends, neighbors, and cousins. Everyone loves GiGi’s, and everyone is welcome! If you have not been inside an actual Playhouse, please schedule a tour! I promise you will leave smiling and proud to be a part of all that is happening there!

Almost 21 years later I am so grateful for the entrepreneurial spirit that still guides the GiGi’s model and the amazing volunteers and GiGi’s teams who help us facilitate over 300,000 free program hours! It truly is quite extraordinary, and we couldn’t do it without all of YOU!!

Inside this newsletter (and our Playhouses!), INCREDIBLE things are happening! Learn about GiGi’s and my trip to Down Country, our progress with the GiGiFIT Acceptance Challenge, how GiGi’s Kitchen is changing lives, our impressive GiGi’s Playhouse – Rochester GiGi U graduates, and a fantastic tutor from our Southern Tier Playhouse!

It’s been an exciting month, and we’ve got even more great things coming!


nancy and gigi signature

Scotty McCreery goes #GenerationG

The stars were out in Missouri! Nancy, Franco, and GiGi attended Down County, an Awareness to Acceptance Concert for individuals with Down syndrome. Country heavyweights Scotty McCreery, Cooper Alan, Joe Nichols, and Conner Smith were repping #GenerationG and served as a reminder of why GiGi’s was there – to raise awareness, foster inclusivity, and promote ACCEPTANCE FOR ALL!

While the country stars were encouraging acceptance, GiGi was busy changing perceptions!

GiGi started off the night with her beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, showing that individuals with DS can do ANYTHING they set their mind to! During GiGi’s performance, there was a small ‘hiccup,’ but like a pro, she quickly shrugged it off, powered through the performance, and pumped up the entire crowd!

Read more about how GiGi’s resilience was on full display during her performance here.

Scotty McCreery

GiGiFIT Acceptance Challenge – Thank you for being the difference!

It’s official!  We’re in the home stretch of the GiGiFIT Acceptance Challenge (GFAC). Over 42 GFAC events have already happened all over the country, and GFAC’s still happening! Best of luck to our Charlotte, Detroit, and Fox Valley Playhouses with their upcoming GFAC events this weekend!

The money we raise from GFAC helps us build more FREE programming, facilitate understanding, and foster a more inclusive community. GFAC is vital to GiGi’s and the Down syndrome community at large. We asked for your support, and you answered the call!

infographic GFAC numbers

 ...But we’re not done! GFAC events are still happening, and we’re still raising money to hit our $2.5 million goal this year. Find an event near you and donate.

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GiGi’s Kitchen: serving up Independence

GiGi Kitchen

It started when one generous donor seized the skillet.

For many, cooking is simply a responsibility or a hobby. But to others, developing cooking skills and learning about proper nutrition is essential to achieving independence.

Our GiGi’s Kitchen program is designed to do exactly that. It gives our participants hands-on experience with cooking and healthy eating, laying the groundwork for them to become independent and ultimately live long, healthy lives. GiGi’s Kitchen is truly a gamechanger!

But this wasn’t always the case. At one point, GiGi’s Kitchen seemed like a pipe dream — something that was sorely needed but too expensive to properly execute on the scale needed.

...Enter an anonymous donor. Recognizing the tremendous need for GiGi’s Kitchen, this donor provided us with the seed money that allowed us to design the program, pilot it, and now, over 33 of our Playhouses offer GiGi’s Kitchen!

Click here to read more about how one person enabled us to change countless lives and start GiGi’s Kitchen!

Need a job? We’re Here to Help.

Let’s face it: the job market is rough for everyone, but for individuals with Down syndrome, it’s dire. People with disabilities have the highest unemployment rate of any group. Shockingly, nearly 80% of individuals with disabilities are unemployed!

But GiGi’s is working to change that!

This past month, GiGi’s Playhouse – Rochester celebrated its very first GiGi U graduating class. GiGi U is a comprehensive and progressive program tailored for adults with Down syndrome that helps our participants gain the skills they need for employment.

Rochester participants JT, Madi, and Julianne graduated from the program, and with the help of GiGi’s Playhouse – Rochester, all three have found employment within the community!

We’re so proud of them, our Rochester Playhouse, and the Rochester community! Having people of ALL abilities employed and integrated into the community is how we create inclusivity and change the world!

rochester graduation
Virtual Plauyhouse

Have you heard the news?

Our Virtual Playhouse is getting a makeover. A new and improved version of Virtual Playhouse is set to debut at the end of July.

We’ll release more details soon, but trust us, this is going to be BIG!

Counting money. Understanding time. Calculating distance. 

southern tier

Everyone can struggle with these concepts, but for individuals with Down syndrome, comprehending math like this can be particularly challenging. GiGi’s is here to help! Our 1:1 tutoring program helps our participants understand the real-life applications of math and we do the unthinkable... make math fun!

Our tutors personalize the curriculum for their students to maximize impact and improve participants learning. Quinn, a college student and recent volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse – Southern Tier, exemplifies this. Quinn was drawn to our tutoring program when he learned the program is driven by data and tailored to the individual needs of each student. Quinn immediately made a difference, tutoring three participants and catering each session to their personal needs and interests!

Want to be like Quinn? We need more tutors! For as little as an hour a week, you can change lives, and you can do it virtually or in person. The choice is yours! GiGi’s make volunteering easy.

Hate math? GiGi’s has volunteer opportunities for wherever your interests lie. Learn more.


A Little Something Extra

New Podcast Episodes Weekly!

Check out the latest releases:
Riley Ferguson | Valeriia and Anya | Shawn Askinosie

Check out the latest from our blog


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A Note from Nancy Gianni! June Newsletter

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  1. Julia Bagdonas on June 20, 2024 at 10:10 pm

    This is Robert Bagdonas’ Mom. I hope you remember us. Robert remembers Hugs & Mugs.
    Sadly I’m going to share Robert has been diagnosed with moderate Down Syndrome dementia. He’s still enjoying life in The Villages, Florida. Robert has lost his long term memory and most of his skills. He still has all his personal skills. We are taking the natural journey. No drugs or entering any studies. God brought us to this he will bring us through it. I had always prayed Robert wouldn’t get this last check mark on the list of health issues. He did and once again he teaching his family about his journey. Thank you for Robert’s success at Hugs & Mugs.
    Julia Bagdonas

    • Nancy Gianni on June 25, 2024 at 11:33 am

      Julia!! Our prayers are with you, Robert and the family! I’m sure you know keeping him busy and using that brain and body are key! Though I know that is easier said than done. If we can help in any way please let us know! Our virtual classes are available if you are interested, the literacy tutoring would be great for him. Also, MIT was doing research on our kids and Alzheimers. I hear they found that working out the leg muscles (the largest muscle group) assists in regenerating those cells in the brain that have become dormant. So adding wall sits or squats in his day would be great! Girl, I know you have a lot on your plate. WE are here to help in any way. Love to Robert

  2. Elizabeth on June 21, 2024 at 10:03 am

    Please tell us more about GIGI U (I.e. age limit, in campus living, etc) thanks.

  3. Elizabeth on June 21, 2024 at 10:04 am

    Interested in GIGI U for my 27 y.o. Son with Downs.

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