Our Team

Sara-2021

Sara Van Deurzen
Operations Director
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Hometown: Sturgeon Bay, WI

Current location: Bayside, WI

Best part of GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? The variety of programs and supports for participants and families.

Favorite place to take a visitor in Milwaukee? Grant Park, we love walking the trails

How/Why did you get involved in GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? My daughter has an intellectual disability, and she was welcomed with open arms when GiGi’s opened in 2015. Since then both she and my son have flourished thanks to the guided instruction integrated in the programs offered at the Playhouse. I became involved after years of being a special education director/teacher. I LOVE the atmosphere and mission of GiGi’s.

Hobbies? Knitting, painting, home design, being outside

Favorite comfort food? Pot pie, ask for my favorite recipe!

Favorite drink? Old Fashioned

What about you would surprise people? My first degree was in Art Education

Marie-&-Sam-headshot

Marie Burrows
Marketing Coordinator
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Hometown? Milwaukee, WI

Current location: Milwaukee, WI

Best part of GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? The interaction between families, especially new parents and caregivers to the Playhouse, is so valuable and essential. When I first started to explore GiGi’s with my infant son back in 2016, I never imagined how changed our family would be by our time spent at GiGi’s and by the friends that we made there.

Favorite place to take a visitor in Milwaukee? Leon’s Frozen Custard!

How/Why did you get involved in GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? We started visiting back in 2016, nearly one year to the day that GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee opened its doors.

Hobbies? I’m into all things crafty, love a good comedy movie, and I’m a bit of a Jill-of-all-trades (master of some). I love learning how things work and new life-hacks, and I play a decent game of cribbage.

Favorite comfort food? Mashed potatoes and gravy

Favorite drink? Iced coffee

What about you would surprise people? I love trying foods I’ve never tried before. The weirder the better!

lauren

Lauren Clasuing
Program and Volunteer Coordinator
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Hometown? Milwaukee, WI

Current location: Milwaukee, WI

Best part of GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? I love GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee because I am both passionate about my community and wanting to help make the world a better and more accepting place. So, GiGi’s is the perfect intersection of everything I love.

Favorite place to take a visitor in Milwaukee? I love taking people to all the unique restaurants and coffee shops in Milwaukee! The Public Market and Rochambo Coffee & Tea House are some of my favorite.

How/Why did you get involved in GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? I wanted to work in advocacy when I graduated college. I have had years of experience working with children on the Autism spectrum and wanted to continue to work with people of different abilities. After learning about GiGi’s Playhouse during a service learning experience, I thought it would be an incredible opportunity to advocate for individuals of all abilities and help serve my community.

Hobbies? I love to bake and knit

Favorite comfort food? My mom’s chicken and dumpling soup

Favorite drink? Sparkling water

What about you would surprise people? I have a twin sister!

Board of Directors

Sue-P-2021

Susanne Pelikan
Board President
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Hometown: I am originally from New Jersey but have lived in 8 different states.

Current location: Cedarburg, Wisconsin

Best part of GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? Our welcoming atmosphere and FREE programs.

Favorite place to take a visitor in Milwaukee? The lakeshore followed by a beer garden.

How/Why did you get involved in GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? Jake is the youngest of my four children and was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. I joined GiGi’s board in 2017 so I could give back to the community and expand Jake’s involvement with his Ds peers.

Hobbies? I enjoy reading and hanging out with friends. I also spend a lot of time hauling my children around to various sporting events. When given the time, I love to play in my yard.

Favorite comfort food? I adore fried shrimp and seafood of all kinds.

Favorite drink? Sadly, I am addicted to Diet Coke.

What about you would surprise people? I am a licensed Landscape Architect with a BSLA from University of Kentucky.

Barry

Barry Goldman
Vice President
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Hometown: Milwaukee, WI

Current location: Bayside and Mequon, WI

Best part of GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? Seeing the participants really enjoy themselves

Favorite place to take a visitor in Milwaukee? The Harley-Davidson Museum and the Lakefront

How/Why did you get involved in GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? Volunteered by my wife. It was the best thing ever!

Hobbies? Grandkids, golf, home projects

Favorite comfort food? Pizza, no, coffee cakes

Favorite drink? Anything with vodka

What about you would surprise people? I’m kinda a neat freak

Mike-2021

Mike Wachter
Treasurer
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Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Current location: Cedarburg, WI

Best part of GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? The people

Favorite place to take a visitor in Milwaukee? Summerfest

How/Why did you get involved in GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? I was involved in Special Olympics before my children were born. As they are now older, I was excited to reengage with the Down syndrome community.

Hobbies? Reading

Favorite comfort food?Brats

Favorite drink?Diet Coke

What about you would surprise people?Absolutely nothing.

Erin

Erin Anderson
Secretary
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Current location: Whitefish Bay

Best part of GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? GiGi’s is our home away from home. Our entire family gets something out of a visit to the Playhouse. Our youngest, Beatrix (who has designer genes), takes part in programming specially made to help her learn, grow, and live her best life. Her big brother and sister have fun, learn and make friends, too. And, as parents, we get to connect with families on a similar journey to share notes and find community.

Favorite place to take a visitor in Milwaukee? We’re festival people! We love all types of live music (so Bea can dance), ethnic foods and people watching. Some of our favorites are Bastille Days, Irish Fest and Festa Italiana.

How/Why did you get involved in GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? An open house for GiGi’s when the Playhouse was just in the planning stages was the first time we met people in the Down syndrome community. Bea was just a few months old, so she has grown up with GiGi’s. I wanted to give back to the organization that’s been so wonderful for our daughter, so I became a board member. It’s been fulfilling and rewarding work to be a part of GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee!

Favorite comfort food? Stuffed peppers – our family recipe!

Favorite drink? Wine (what mom would be without it?)

Ann-2021

Ann Jasen
Donor Relations
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Current location: West Bend, WI

Best part of GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? GiGi’s Playhouse has been a wonderful place for Ryan to learn and grow. Ann and her husband Tony, have a son, Ryan, who has Down syndrome, and 2 adult daughters.

Favorite place to take a visitor in Milwaukee?

How/Why did you get involved in GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? Ann is thrilled to be part of the team supporting GiGi’s continued service in the Down syndrome community.

Hobbies? Coaching and volunteering for the various activities everyone has been involved with over the years.

What about you would surprise people? Prior to becoming a mother, Ann worked as a chemist.

Kristen-2021

Kristen Byers
Board Member
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Hometown: Grafton, WI

Current location: Fredonia, WI

Best part of GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? The loving, safe environment - GiGi’s welcomes entire families with open arms and hearts.

Favorite place to take a visitor in Milwaukee? The Lakefront

How/Why did you get involved in GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee? My 9 year old daughter, Lilly has Down syndrome. GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee opened when she was about 2. My family immediately felt at home and we loved the programming. Now that my kids are a little older, I want to be involved in promoting GiGi’s programs and mission in our community.

Hobbies? Knitting, hiking, photography

Favorite drink? Coffee with cream

What about you would surprise people? I have chickens

Additional Board Members are desired to support the Milwaukee Playhouse in the following areas:

  • Event planning
  • Fundraising
  • Grant writing
  • Outreach
  • Board Development
  • Diversity
  • Family engagement
  • Facilities & expansion!

Advisory Committee

Susan Waldkirch | email me

Chris VandenHouten | email me

Sarah Koehn | email me

Andi Zimmerman | email me

Terri Peckerman-Stein