Our Team

Mike Bio Photo

Mike Cirigliano - President


Mike, owner of Cirigliano Insurance and Financial Services agency, has been honored to be part of the GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island team since the start-up committee. Mike and his wife Holly currently have a 4-year-old son, 2-year old daughter and 9 nieces/nephews.  Their youngest niece Bella has Down Syndrome and was their spark to get involved when approached about joining the startup committee. GiGi's Playhouse Long Island's center will change lives through consistent delivery of free educational, therapeutic-based and career development programs for individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the community.  We aspire to help promote Global Acceptance. In the past couple years, there have been so many volunteers, sponsors, supporters, start-up committee members and now board members that have done so much to support the opening of GiGi's Playhouse Long Island.  We are beyond excited to be part of this team that has contributed the the Long Island Playhouse opening its doors on March 20, 2021.

J. Netter_Headshot_smaller

Jennifer Netter - Vice President


Jennifer and her fiancé Darren have four beautiful girls between them.  Their youngest, Ruari, is their 10-year-old rock star with Down Syndrome. Being her parents has been one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. They are huge proponents for creating awareness and social acceptance for individuals with different abilities. Jennifer has served on many early educational committees, assisted with fundraising and outreach for many organizations for children, graduated Parent Leadership Training Institute program and previously served as part the Start Up Committee for GiGi’s Playhouse Westchester. Their love for GiGi’s Playhouse was solidified while being an integral part of many of the GiGi’s programs as well as fundraising events. They are so excited to be helping bring such a passionate organization to the community and believe it will be paramount in the paradigm shift for so many individuals and organizations. They are proud to be part of Generation G and can't wait to open GiGi's Playhouse Long Island doors very soon!!!

Joe Pedone - Treasurer


BIO coming soon!


Emily Ginas - Secretary


A 2021 graduate from St. John’s University—Rome, Mastering in Sustainability and Development with a focus on nonprofit organizations. Emily is a Patchogue native, graduating from PMHS in the class of 2015. Emily’s love and passion for helping others and the community is what led her to GiGi's Playhouse Long Island as our first Site Coordinator. Working in her hometown was very fulfilling and rewarding. She now looks forward to her new Board Member role with GiGi's Playhouse Long Island, as the Secretary. She is most excited to continue to see all of the smiling faces of our participants as the come through the Playhouse!

Angelique and DJ Photo

Angelique Sternberger - Board Member


Angelique is very excited to be a part of the GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island team!  Angelique has been a volunteer, part of our Fundraising & Events team, our Theatre Fundraiser Chair and now a board member.  Her son DJ had Down Syndrome and unfortunately passed away 5 years ago.  Angelique wishes she would have had a place like GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island to go to for support in those early days of DJ's diagnosis. A place where you go to talk to others with similar experiences, somewhere to go for support, a place to meet and discuss what is going on in your life would have been amazing.  GiGi's Playhouse Long Island will not only offer support for parents with a child with Down Syndrome but is a place individual’s with Down Syndrome can go to for tutoring, to socialize, to exercise and participate in other events/programs that will be offered.  It will help individuals gain skills to be the best that they can be in the future. I am passionate about opening up GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island to help all people with Down Syndrome and their families. Although DJ is no longer with me, I am so thankful to be involved to honor him and his memory.

Amanda Wood

Amanda Wood - Events Director


Amanda is the loving mother of her son Jude, who has Down syndrome. Through word of mouth and mutual contacts, Amanda was introduced to the startup committee of GiGi's Playhouse Long Island.  Amanda started as the Fundraising & Event Chair. She is very thankful to have become a part of the Down syndrome "Tribe" and even more excited to bring her background and knowledge of events to the team! Like everyone else, Amanda and Jude cannot wait to open GiGi's Playhouse Long Island's doors where local community children/adults will have the opportunity to excel and strive through free educational, therapeutic-based and career development programs. Let's change the way the world views Down syndrome together!


Elizabeth Rahne – Program Director 


After teaching in the Brentwood School District for 33 years, Liz retired in 2019.  Presently she enjoys spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren, Derek and Hazel.  Derek has Down syndrome and is her guiding light.  She wants to give him a place where he can become the best version of himself. Liz knows that GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island will offer support, education and present opportunity to our children and local communities. GiGi's Playhouse Long Island is a special place that will teach acceptance and kindness towards everyone.  Liz is eagerly looking forward to seeing the doors of Gigi’s Playhouse Long Island open!


Heather Thorgersen - Board Member


Heather has over 20 years of nonprofit, training and consulting experience in education, arts education, and intellectual and development disabilities. She is the Founder of ThinkBig! Theater Arts, Inc. serves as the Director of Quality Improvement and co-advisor for the Magnificent Voices Advocacy Heather is a Region Five (Lost Island) Co-Learn for Regional Center for Workspace Transformation in partnership with The NY Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation and OPWDD.


Linda Umbach - Board Member


I am so happy and honored to have joined the GiGi's Playhouse - Long Island team. I was a special education teacher at The Carman Road School in Massapequa Park, for thirty-one years. It never felt like work or that many years! Every year was always new: new students, new ideas (but hopefully my dear staff!) and a new way to inspire students with learning challenges. I am a mom to a third-year college student . I have been married 31 years! I have two sweet cockapoos and I'm the " grandma" to my daughter's dog, Goose! I love decorating, organizing, gardening, reading, traveling and spreading kindness wherever I can! Here's to supporting the literacy program at GiGi's Playhouse Long Island! Looking forward to welcoming all participants and volunteers!


Vera Schulze - Site Manager


Hi! My name is Vera Schulze, born and raised on Long Island, in a big Italian family, where my parents always offered help and gave to those in need, even though we did not have much ourselves. My Dad was a 100% disabled WWII vet which is why I have always felt the need to help support veterans. I’ve organized food drives for the veteran's organization “Boots on the Ground” and raised over 500 lbs. in the last food drive alone.

When I was offered the Site Manager Position at GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island, I jumped at the chance to make a difference in the Down syndrome community. I want to help raise awareness to GiGi’s Playhouse main goal, which aims to change the world’s perception of our Down syndrome community. Let us show the world that the “Sky is the limit for people with Down syndrome and what they are truly capable of.” 😊 Vera 💗


Teresa Kearney - Marketing Coordinator


Teresa Kearney is a recent graduate of PMHS, class of 2022, and works as the Outreach Coordinator at our GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island. She will be attending Stony Brook University this fall and be entering the Teaching Program with a Major in History. Teresa is outgoing and friendly and always willing to help where needed. She is responsible for all the great pictures and videos you see on our website and our Facebook page. Teresa helps keep everyone up to date on what is happening at our Playhouse. She often helps Liz our Program Coordinator, when needed in one of our many programs! We are happy to have Teresa in our GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island Family!