From Grand Opening Until Now: 4 Years of Changing Lives 

Monica: Grand Opening & Now 

“GiGi’s Playhouse Lancaster has opened a whole new world for our daughter Monica. Four years ago, we were excited to have a local Down Syndrome enrichment center available for support, never dreaming that it would become a second home to Monica. She is there several times a week for fitness class, cooking class, art, dance and volunteer work. Since attending GiGi’s, she has gained confidence and as a result is much more talkative and social.” Monica says, “My favorite part of GiGi’ is all the new friends I have made. I love having good friends to hang out with.”  

-Laura & Kent Williams  

Parker: Grand Opening & Now 

“GiGi’s has given Parker a place where he can be himself. He LOVES attending programs and playing with and learning from his friends. We love the community we’ve gained, the friends that we’ll have for life, and seeing our kid thrive when he’s around others who get him.  

GiGi’s has given us hope for Parker’s future and ours. We can see firsthand the benefits of all the programs offered and are excited for what the future holds for programming as Parker grows. We see the teens and adults all achieving and growing so much when given opportunities and we are so happy that Parker will have GiGi’s for his entire life. 

We weren’t sure what to expect when we first heard of GiGi’s, but from the minute we walked through the door, we were welcomed with open arms. On grand opening day, were so amazed by the number of people there and the community support (not to mention the fun)! We love seeing that energy carrying forward still 4 years later. Each program is fun, and there have been so many karaoke and dance parties! 

Parker has learned so much at GiGi’s. When he was first learning to crawl, we came home after one program and found him trying to get into a bear crawl position like he had just seen his friend Benson do. He has stood at the door before Leaps & Bounds waiting for his friends to get there so he could hand them their name tags. Recently, he stepped up onto the stage with no help and used the microphone to try to share his name. We love that when we’re at GiGi’s, we aren’t the only ones cheering him on – there’s an entire room full of his friends, their parents, and volunteers, who have known him since he was 6 months old and have been there to see his growth along with us, who cheer for him as loudly as we do.” 

-Kelly & Jim Rogers 

Isabella: Grand Opening & Now 

“At GiGi’s Playhouse Lancaster’s Grand Opening 4 years ago, Isabella was an adorable little preschooler. She was still working on learning basic skills, like communication, play, and gross motor skills. We thought GiGi’s was going to be fun for her to go to and play in the Playhouse. We had no idea the impact that consistent weekly and monthly purposeful programming would have on Isabella’s development! She loves GiGi’s. GiGi’s has become her second home. She has become stronger and more confident. Through Destination Discovery, she has been given the opportunity to go on stage, introduce herself, introduce others, take turns, and participate in group activities. Through GiGi’s Dance, she has learned and performed dances on stage in front of huge audiences. Through 1:1 tutoring in reading and math, she has developed more confidence in reading, matching, selecting, writing, counting and answering questions. Through GiGiFIT, she has become so strong.  She is able to do squats, planks, push ups, hops, jumps, obstacle courses, climb rock walls, and run 5Ks! She has developed friendships with peers with and without Down syndrome. She has formed relationships with so many volunteers that genuinely care about her and love her. GiGi’s has changed her life!   

Johnny: Grand Opening & Now 

“Our son Johnny is 4 1/2 years old and we were there at the grand opening when he was only 7 months old.  Since then, we have been regularly participating at GiGi’s Playhouse Lancaster. We feel so happy to be able to go to a place where we can share and network with other parents, where Johnny loves to go and learn and play, and where we also get a glimpse into the future seeing other older kids and their successes. We are so thankful for GiGi’s Playhouse where we feel welcomed, accepted and supported. It has also been great for our other children to learn and be more involved in the community.  

Through our involvement with GiGi’s Playhouse, we have more hope for the future. We feel a part of a community that will aid Johnny in becoming a happy and productive person.  

At the grand opening, we were very excited, however we didn’t yet understand the benefits and programs that would be available for Johnny.  

Johnny has learned through GiGi’s how to participate in a group setting. He loves going and gets excited every time we arrive.  

Johnny’s best moment was at the most recent Pancakes and Pajamas where he danced with Santa at the end! Johnny was so happy and we never saw him dance and interact in that way before.” 

-John & Gladys O’Barr 

Ellarose: Grand Opening & Now 

GiGi’s has impacted our lives so much. Me and my daughter have met so many great people through GiGi’s, and ​it ​has cemented the fact that moving to this area was the right decision. The opportunities that arise because of this organization have been nothing short of amazing.  

My perspective on life is different because of GiGi’s because I see so many people engaged in so many different positive interactions, it’s inevitable that the positivity rubbed off on me. I try to improve myself daily and I really do try to remind myself to live out Generation G and be more accepting, generous, and kind as time passes. 

At ​the ​grand opening, we were new to the area, weren’t really sure about what to expect but saw potential and hoped that it would come to fruition. Four years later, it’s safe to say those expectations were blown out of the water.  

In the past 4 years, we’ve grown so much. Ellarose has gone from a 3-year-old who could barely walk to a 7-year-old who I can barely keep up with. She has so many new friends, a lot of whom she met through GiGi’s. I have been thrilled to see her interacting with her peers, engaged in so many different activities, and growing more confident in herself all the time. 

It’s hard to pick one Best of All moment for Ellarose. The thing that makes me smile every time​,​ is how excited Ellarose is to go to GiGi’s. I pick her up from school on a Monday and she is saying “first dinner, then tutoring at GiGi’s!?” before we get to the car. We wake up on a Sunday morning and she’s asking if it’s time for dance yet. The uncertainty of whether Ellarose would be included in things as she grew up has disappeared and while that’s not one specific moment, it’s one of the best things I can point to.  

-Andrew Thomas 

Ayven and Ashton: Grand Opening & Now

“Our family feels very fortunate to have a GiGi’s so close to home. GiGi’s has been a place of true and total acceptance for our entire family. Ashton has found a community in the adult programs at GiGi’s. He has met so many adults with Down Syndrome and has come to love every participant and volunteer. He will choose GiGi’s over any other activity that may come up. Ayven has also found a place of belonging and loves going to GiGi’s. This has become a second home for both boys. Our family has also gotten to know other families and discovered a network of support and friendship. Our daughter, Ansley has had the opportunity to connect and volunteer. She has met other individuals with Down Syndrome of varying ages, has seen their growth and gotten to meet other siblings who have experiences similar to hers. She has met volunteers who are college students and seen them participate in the program. She is now a freshman pursuing a career in occupational therapy and her involvement with GiGi’s has helped her to solidify her career path and given her examples of students her age pursuing the same interests. We feel like we can arrive at GiGi’s as we are. No planning, no worrying, only joy and acceptance. We have learned to love other families and celebrate their growth and feel honored to be part of such a loving and accepting community.

We have always been a family who believes in and fights for inclusion. GiGi’s has given us resources to support that goal through educational programs and connection. ​On​ days when it is hard or when you feel alone in the struggle, GiGi’s is there to let you know you are not alone and you can do it. They can reinforce what you are doing as a family and as a parent. There are programs available that help you learn how to best support your child and see your child grow and gain confidence and independence. For our family, we have found the community so valuable as we continue to look for acceptance and opportunity for our children in the world.

At the Grand Opening, this seemed like a great place and opportunity for people with Down Syndrome but I felt more like an outsider looking in. It was a place that I wished had existed when I first had my children and was not sure how it would fit into our lives at this point in our journey. It has turned out to be a huge part of our family and now I cannot imagine life without GiGi’s. During COVID and the transition to adulthood for Ashton this was a place that allowed him to socialize, form lasting friendships, and connect with other people with Down Syndrome his own age with similar interests. I feel the resources and support helped us to transition him into the adult service world and am not sure how we would have done it if it were not for GiGi’s. For Ayven, there were few programs available for his age group when GiGi’s first opened. Now, there are many programs such as GiGiFit, tutoring, and Destination Discovery. Ayven has had the opportunity to serve in pilots to begin programs and has grown tremendously both in his skills and confidence. We now feel part of the GiGi’s family and are so proud of the programs and the families and the volunteers we have met. It is amazing to see how many families and how many age groups with Down Syndrome there are in our area. We now look to moving to a larger space and offering more programs. The growth has been amazing to watch.

We found GiGi’s when Ashton was just turning 18 and has found wonderful friendships with peers his own age and has found a second family and community. He has also grown in confidence and independence through his connection with peers and volunteers. We have seen his confidence grow and seen great pride in his accomplishments. We believe this happened at a critical time for him and our family. We were unsure of this transition and what to expect but found others there to help guide us and provide such wonderful examples. Through these four years Ashton has gotten a job at Weaver Markets in our community. He has learned many skills and has kept that job for over 3 years now. He has graduated from High School and is currently living on campus at Millersville University in their Integrated Studies program. We now see him advocating for himself on campus with peers and professors. He is navigating campus, joining clubs and extracurricular activities, has a campus job, and is managing to get where he needs to go by himself and making many of his own decisions. If we compare Ashton to where he was when he started with GiGi’s to where he is now, the growth is astronomical and we would have never pictured him where he is now.

Ayven started with GiGi’s a bit later as programs for his age group developed but we have seen him grow in strength through GiGiFIT. There are things he does easily now that he could not do when the program began. He knows the program now and has placed himself in a leadership role during this program. We have seen his communication skills and confidence blossom. We believe his success at GiGi’s has transferred to his school experiences. He is now far more social and confident. He has many friends and speaks to faculty each morning. He is doing presentations in front of his general ed peers and is enjoying school. His reading skills have also improved greatly. He has been exposed to many opportunities through tutoring and Destination Discovery that have built upon what he is doing in school. He has matured a great deal since the program began. He loves the events and dressing up to go to the galas and celebrating. He has learned that he can help others whether younger children in the program or washing cars, he has the ability to be a leader and help others and is not always the person who needs help.

For Ashton, a Best of All moment is him moving into his dorm room and living on campus at Millersville. He just completed his first semester and has achieved so many things we never would have dreamed of when he was born.

For Ayven, a Best of All Moment is him performing a few weeks ago at his elementary school concert in band and chorus. This was possible due to his skills and success at GiGi’s. This was able to carry over into his general ed experiences. He was confident to try new things, make friends, and get up on stage in front of many families. These are things he has done at GiGi’s​,​ whether leading the opening song at GiGiFit, singing Karaoke on the stage, or being recognized for completing his tutoring sessions. All of these things helped him grow and become confident enough to achieve what he is currently doing in school. I believe that being accepted and celebrated every time he walks through the doors of GiGi’s has given him confidence that he can succeed in other places. 

We are very grateful to the GiGi’s program and to the volunteers who spend countless hours develop​ing​ and run​ning the​ programs. These are people who are always in a good mood, always happy to see you, always love and celebrate your children, and always strive to do more and to do better. We are so fortunate to have these people and this program to support us and to love our children.” 

-Edson & Lori Lagos 

Devon: Grand Opening & Now 

“GiGi’s has given Devon a sense of identity and to understand who he is. He gets to be with others like him. People that don’t treat him like an outsider. 

GiGi’s has helped us to know his future is not limited because of his diagnosis.  

There was a lot of unknown at Grand opening, would people come, would we be able to sustain the building and look at us now….moving into a bigger space because we’ve grown so much! 

GiGi’s has helped Devon to be confident and comfortable in who he is.  It’s the first place outside of family that we felt comfortable in leaving him there without us. 

Seeing Devon and all the participants thrive at GiGi’s is always a best of all moment!” 

-Susan and James Baker 

Sarah: Grand Opening & Now 

“I love being friendly.  And smiley. And happy.  I like socializing with my friends. 

I like being nice to people. 

I like exercising with Beth at GiGiFIT.  Beth is a good teacher.  And very loving. I like doing zumba with Beth. 

My goal is to have fun.  Have a good time.  I have a lot to be thankful for. 

I love playing my violin at the Gala and Roots. 

I love giving people tours. 

I love making the ginger bread houses. 

I love talking to Christine.” 


We celebrate the achievements and Best of All moments of each of our participants throughout the past 4 years! We especially want to honor Sarah because she was our first participant to participate in 500 hours of purposeful programming at GiGi’s Playhouse Lancaster! 

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