A Playhouse Family’s Beautiful Story

Teenage girl with Down syndrome posing in a sign that says "I'm a Supa Buddy"

Guest blog by Playhouse mom, Missy Miller.

Life has a bigger plan for us than we know – rewind to year 2006, it was high school graduation and I had a plan. I thought I always knew what I wanted to do when I was “older” and my career path was set. I was going to be a special education teacher. I had a great role model Gail Semko Cellucci who loved her work and loved the people she worked with and for. I was ready, enrolled at Western Illinois University and on my path to my forever career (spoiler alert, I was wrong). As I sat class after class, lecture after lecture, something wasn’t right, things did not seem to align, was this the career path for me? I loved working with special population individuals, I loved being an advocate but teaching just seemed to feel more wrong than right at the time.

At the end of 1st semester I made the decision to change majors and go into the field called Recreation Management by recommendation of a boss at the Round Lake Area Park District pool, which everyone proceeded to say “what’s that and how do you get a job with that degree”. Western Illinois happens to have one of the best rec management programs in the country so I took a chance. I’ve always had a passion for recreation type activities and I sat in my first class and knew this was my path!

I wondered how to be a rec management major and still be involved with special population people (it was much easier transition than I thought). I joined the Best Buddies International chapter at school for 4 years and was on the board for 2 years as treasurer and board president. This was the perfect balance.

Graduation comes and goes, reality is setting in. Real time job offers real time work! I find my recreation dream job in Monona, Wi a town this Illinois Native knew minimal about but it was surrounded by Madison so the area has to be cool. Did Jake Anderson really hire the Illinois FIB who was late to her interview. True story, I was late and he did ☺️☺️

2014 comes and my world is forever changed when I meet Brandon Miller a stranger who turned into family. A single dad with two kids. He was hesitant to let me in. His kids were his world and I was new. He told me his daughter Brenda was special. I told him of course she is, that is your daughter. He said no, she really is special – she has down syndrome.

At that moment I knew my life path was all making sense.

2020 Brandon and I tie the knot.

In 2021 our part-time parenting became full time parenting, I was pregnant! The joys and fears all sank in. Full time parenting is way different than part-time co-parenting. As my belly was growing, so was a different plan.

In June of 2021 Brandon’s kids and my bonus tweens moved in full-time and we went from a full time house of 2 to a full time house of 5! Things changed quickly! New mom, new kids, one of who has special needs.

It was like my whole life aligned, what I have been doing my whole life has come together like a puzzle, piece by piece.

I may have not became that special Ed teacher, because I was meant to be a special needs bonus mom. My purpose was bigger than I ever knew.

Instructor and individual with Down working out

Now that I am a special needs mom, GiGi’s Playhouse – Madison means more to me and our new special needs family and friends than ever before.

They are support, they are understanding, they have resources for us.

That is why I am #dashingfordownsyndrome and the driving force behind team #brendasbuddies. This is my life. We may not know what is ahead for Brenda but we will give her every possible opportunity. Our path is not normal and it’s not the easy road but that’s ok – who wants a boring life anyways!

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