Sara Van Deurzen - Site Coordinator
Sara lives in Milwaukee with her husband and two children. As a parent Sara has been able to support her son in gifted and talented programming and her daughter in a multitude of special education services (OT, PT, Speech, Vision, Special Education). All of them love to visit Sara's hometown of Sturgeon Bay, WI in beautiful Door County as well as spend time with family and friends. In her free time, Sara also loves knitting, baking, and painting.
Sara has Bachelor’s Degrees in Art Education and Exceptional Education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Marian University. For the past 17 years, she has worked in Special Education as a Director and a teacher in the Racine, New Berlin, Milwaukee and Shorewood school districts. At the state level, she is the Vice Chair of the Inter-agency Coordinating Council (ICC) as appointed by the Governor for Birth-to-Three Services.
Patricia - Literacy Coordinator
Patricia is a retired Special Education teacher who has worked in many areas of this field. She has degrees in Early Intervention, and Special Education birth thru Adult. She also has degrees in Early Childhood, Elementary Education K-3rd grade, Social Studies 6th thru 12th grade, and a degree in History.
Patricia brings her professional experience to GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee because of her continuing interest in ensuring positive educational and life experiences to individuals with Down syndrome. On a personal level, Patricia is committed to GiGi’s because of her granddaughter, Daphne, who has Down syndrome.
The position of Literacy Coordinator is a perfect fit for Patricia at this time in her life. She and her husband, Peter, are both retired and recently moved to the Milwaukee area to be near their daughter, Sarah, and her family. Sarah has been involved with GiGi’s Playhouse since her daughter, Daphne, was three months old, and this led to Patricia’s involvement also. This has been a wonderful opportunity for her to remain involved with Special needs education on both personal and professional level.
Board of Directors:
Sarah lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband Charlie and three children – twins Jacqueline and Harvey and daughter Daphne, who has Down syndrome. Sarah’s professional background is in telecommunications operations, however for the past five years Sarah has lent her professional skills to GiGi’s Playhouse. From 2010 to 2012, she served on GiGi’s Playhouse - Chicago Board of Directors, and since 2013, she has served on the GiGi’s Playhouse – Milwaukee Board of Directors. After Daphne’s birth, GiGi’s Playhouse became an awesome source of support for Sarah and her husband. To Sarah, the best part of GiGi’s Playhouse is the ability to give that support back to new families, and learn from families with older children with Down syndrome.
Treasurer – Chris VandenHouten
Chris VandenHouten lives in Grafton, WI. She is married to Randy, and they have 3 children, Erica, Lauren and Chad. Chad, the youngest, has Down syndrome. Chris is a CPA and has past experience in public accounting, bank auditing and regulatory compliance. She coaches/manages the Challenger special needs baseball team through Grafton Little League, and participates in the Cedarburg School District Special Needs Parent Advisory Group. She is excited to have a GiGi's Playhouse in Milwaukee, and especially glad it offers programs for people of all ages.
Susan Waldkirch lives in Cedarburg with her husband Rob. They have 4 boys, the youngest being Noah who has Down syndrome. Susan has been running a Young Athletes program for Special Olympics for 5yrs. She is also on the board for Ozaukee county Circle of friends. Susan also runs a parent advisory board and puts on a resource night for her school district. Susan was in the grass roots of building Possibility playground in Port Washington. She looks forward to what GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee has to offer for Noah and all the other families.
Our Henry had a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. It was an overwhelming time for us, having no real knowledge or first-hand experience with Down syndrome. We first got learned about and got involved with GiGi’s during their “First Year Friends” campaign and we are so thankful for everyone that brought GiGi’s to the Milwaukee area. GiGi’s provides an invaluable connection for so many families. I really believe in the mission of GiGi’s and want to help take some of that unknown away for new families.
I am a recent Board member of Penfield Children’s Center, where Henry received his Birth-3 services. Outside of work, Henry events and GiGi’s, my husband and I have a Ska/Reggae band (Henry likes to play music with us) and we do volunteering related to WWII and Vietnam era veterans and living history.
We also enjoy camping and traveling.
Andi Zimmerman lives in Mequon, WI and has volunteered in the Mequon-Thiensville School District (MTSD) since 1998; in the classroom and on the PTO/PTSO Boards as Treasurer. She currently is the Homestead High School PTSO Treasurer. Since 2008 she has served on the Board of the Mequon-Thiensville Education Foundation, including two years as president, and is actively involved in fundraising activities that support the MTSD. She holds a B.B.A. degree in Finance from the University of Iowa.
Susanne Griscom Pelikan - Secretary
Originally from New Jersey, Sue and her husband Jim have lived in Cedarburg for the last sixteen years. Sue has been able to stay at home with their children; John, David, Kaleigh and Jake, who has Down syndrome. They have been active in the community with soccer, volleyball, flag football and a variety of school activities. Sue and Jim also helped found the Cedarburg Destination Imagination Club and continue to manage teams as well as coordinate fourteen teams in the Cedarburg area. Sue holds a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from the University of Kentucky and enjoys working on the occasional landscape plan. She looks forward to expanding her involvement with GiGi’s Playhouse and getting to know all of the fabulous people and programs it offers.
Kari recently moved to Mequon from the D.C. area. Her and her husband, Cary, have two children, Lilly and Griffin. Griffin has Down Syndrome. Kari is a Dental Hygienist and a figure skating coach. She worked with Special Olympics in college. They are so grateful to have a Gigi's Playhouse in the area. Griffin loves participating in the literacy program and the other fun programs. It has been a wonderful place to meet new families. In their spare time, Kari and the kids love doing Taekwondo.