Volunteer Spotlight: Francesca Giancola

Volunteer appreciation week is April 16-22, but we have so many wonderful volunteers to talk about it, that we’ll be celebrating all month! GiGi’s Playhouse Madison is 99% volunteer run – which means we wouldn’t be here without our volunteers. It’s pretty incredible to think back on all of the hours people have given to us – 5,698 hours in 2022 alone!

Throughout the month, we will be shining a spotlight on some of the people who give their time and energy to facilitate programs, serve on the Board or committees, and help coordinate events .These blogs will be posted in a question and answer format. First up, is…

Francesca Giancola 

Why did you decide to volunteer with GiGi’s Playhouse? 

My family has been best friends with the Gianni family (the founders of GiGi’s Playhouse) since 2004/2005 – they are truly like family to us! Because of our close relationship, my family became involved with the Hoffman Estates (IL) Playhouse. 

After starting school at UW Madison, I knew I wanted to get involved at the Madison location and I am so glad that I did! 

How long have you been a volunteer? 

I have been volunteering with the Playhouse for as long as I can remember. I would say that I first started volunteering in 2012/2013. 

What programs, committees or events have you volunteered with? 

  • Gala (Chicagoland)
  • 5k
  • GiGiFest
  • Co-founded the Youth Board (Hoffman Estates)
  • Co-founded #GenerationG Club (Barrington High School) 
  • Literacy Tutoring (Madison) 

What is your favorite way to volunteer with GiGi’s? 

Although I have enjoyed all the events that I have been a part of, literacy is my favorite so far. It is so fun to see a student gain confidence in their reading ability and progress through the session. I also love that since the time is 1-on-1, I have really been able to create a connection with my students, which makes everything more enjoyable. 

Norah (Katie’s sister), Katie & Francesca (left to right)
“Francesca used Katie’s unique interests to engage her and make learning fun. They interacted like friends and Katie left each session feeling good about herself.”

Can you share a favorite moment from your time volunteering? 

When I was in high school, Bella Gianni and I started the #GenerationG Club at our school to spread the message of the campaign to our peers. We had both witnessed a disgusting amount of incidences of bullying toward students with disabilities and knew we needed to do something. 

Our goal was to spread awareness about the #GenerationG campaign and create a more accepting school culture. One of my favorite moments from this time was when we sat in the lunch room educating students on the campaign and getting signatures on a banner – by signing the banner, they were signing the #GenerationG pledge. 

After about a week of gathering hundreds of signatures, our banner hung on the school’s main entrance banister. It is was so amazing to see all those signatures and the #GenerationG pledge hanging boldly for all of the students to see. 

What is the most impactful thing you have learned from your time at GiGi’s? 

To be more accepting and kinder to every person! You never know what is going on in another person’s life, but having a kind smile and attitude could change anyone’s day. 

What advice would you give to someone that is new to volunteering or considering volunteering with GiGi’s Playhouse? 

Have fun with it! There are so many different ways to be involved at the Playhouse – find the opportunity that suits you and jump in! 

__________

Francesca’s current student, Victoria, had a lot to share about her feelings for Francesca:

“She’s really great and I love her a lot!”

“She’s a great tutor and I’m learning lots from her!”

“I wish that she could be my Reading tutor for a long time.”

“I love coming to my Reading class every Thursday with Francesca. It’s a lot of fun for me!”

Thank you, Francesca. 🧡

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