Our Team

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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 after sponsoring the very first fundraising event that was held at Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve.  Mike and his wife Holly currently have a 3-year-old son, 1-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 by startup founder Venessa Diaz.  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 opening our doors very soon!

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Jennifer Netter - Vice President & Outreach + Fundraising Director


Jennifer and her fiancé Darren have four beautiful girls between them.  Their youngest, Ruari, is their 9-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!

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Angelique Sternberger - Secretary


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.


Emily Ginas - Site Manager


Emily is a recent 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 has led her to the Site Coordinator position here at GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island. Working in her hometown is very fulfilling and rewarding, being able to give back to a community in which she grew up in.

GiGi’s Playhouse is not just a job to Emily, it is something she loves and looks forward to doing every day! Seeing smiling faces, excited participants and having a wonderful support system is what makes this position different from any other.

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do." - Steve Jobs

Emily lives and breathes this quote, because she truly loves what she does here at GiGi’s Playhouse. Everyone that comes through that front door is part of her continuing growing GiGi’s Family!

If you have any questions on programs, the facility, volunteering or just need more information you can contact Emily at eginas@gigisplayhouse.org or at (631) 438- 1153 (ext. 102)

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!


Elizebeth 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!


Donna McKeon - Board Member


Donna is an adoptive mother of her 6 year old son Benji who has Down Syndrome. Donna is a recently retired Lieutenant from the NYPD, where she served more than 20 years of service. Donna is honored to be a part the team, where she has served as a volunteer, team lead and now a board member.  She looks forward to dedicating her time assisting in the evolvement of GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island. GiGi’s will provide my son as well as others so many opportunities to grow, learn, and inspire one another. I am thrilled GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island will be opening their doors.  This Community Center will finally afford children and adults with Down Syndrome the opportunity to socialize and build friendships that will last a lifetime.


Karyn Degnan - Board Member


Karyn is honored to be the mother of three beautiful children. My oldest and youngest have Down syndrome, and for years I have imagined what it would be like to have a GiGi’s Playhouse on Long Island. When I was presented with the opportunity to join the startup committee, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of wonderful things to come for GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island and I can’t wait to show our Long Island communities what we have in store for them!

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Michele Krauss - Board Member


My name is Michele, my son Derek is 6 and has Down Syndrome. Through word of mouth I learned about GiGi’s Playhouse start up committee and have joined along for the ride. Taking over as Marketing Chair, I get to do something I love and I’m passionate about while bringing awareness and understanding to the communities around us. I cannot wait to open our doors here on Long Island and know my children can say – we were a part of this difference in the world!


Venessa Diaz - Start-up Founder


EDUCATE. INSPIRE. BELIEVE! No truer words have ever been spoken! Venessa’s background as a Teaching Artist allowed her to see those words in action. Inspired by her students of differing abilities, Venessa dreamed of opening a community center to help underserved communities.

Shortly after the birth of her twin boys with Down syndrome, she was determined to open a GiGi’s Playhouse in Long Island, NY. Fortunately, she wasn’t alone in her endeavor and was able to assemble an incredible group of dedicated board members and volunteers to make this dream a reality. Venessa couldn’t be prouder to be a part of the GiGi’s Playhouse family. She is eternally grateful to all who had a hand in opening our playhouse doors!