Fall 2023 Newsletter Highlights

We’re excited to share some awesome highlights with you from our End of Year Fall 2023 Newsletter.

Take a look and let us know what you think!

Celebrating Ten Years in NaSHville!

Nashville GiGi’s celebrated our 10th birthday on November 2nd while our staff was in Chicago attending the GiGi’s National Conference. When they got back, we had a party at the playhouse! Founding Board member Tiffany Wenzler notes that this type of community celebration is exactly what GiGi’s is for, “a place to connect with other families who walk a similar path.”​

When Kim Coure, the Founding Board President, reminisces about the hard work that went into building GiGi’s Playhouse Nashville, she knows it was all worth it:

“When we opened GiGi’s Playhouse Nashville 10 years ago, we wanted a space where people with Down syndrome would feel like they belonged.  What I never imagined at that time were the abundance of achievements the participants would experience here! GiGi’s showcases to the world that if you give people a chance to prove their capabilities, their light will shine so bright.”

As the 16th playhouse (there are now 58!), it’s been quite a ride!  But we are heart-warmed by our memories from the last 10 years. 

Here’s to the next 10 years of pushing the boundaries for what our participants can accomplish while building community!

Program Spotlight: Adult Education

GiGi’s Playhouse Nashville is thrilled to announce the launch of our full Adult Education Program beginning in January 2024! We gave you a sneak peek of this program when we piloted GiGi Prep in spring 2021 and GiGi U in spring 2022 and 2023, with the help of doctoral students in Occupational Therapy from Belmont University. Based on the overwhelming positive feedback we’ve received plus the need for more adult programming in the Greater Nashville area, it was an easy decision for our Board to approve the launch of the full complement of Adult Education Programs over the next couple years. This spring, we’ll launch the first course of the program: GiGi Achievers. We are thrilled to once again have Belmont doctoral students join us to lead the program. We will continue to layer on the other programs as our adult participants continue to progress.

GiGi’s Adult Education programs are progressive learning programs that are designed to motivate adults with Down syndrome to achieve their highest potential in the world through innovative, educational, goal-oriented, and small-group instruction. These programs are designed to empower our participants and increase independence, communication, and social interactions with a focus on personal health and wellness, self-advocacy, community involvement, and career skills. We are excited to embark on this journey and help our participants develop greater independence, experience success, and achieve their dreams.

Participant Spotlight: Clayton

Clayton is a shining example of how GiGi’s programs help our participants achieve success in education, health and wellness, social and life skills. Clayton has been participating in programs since 2016 and continues to be an active participant today. This year, he became involved in GiGi’s literacy tutoring program, and he is such a good reader. Clayton’s mother, Graeme, shared “Clayton has really enjoyed his tutoring sessions and looks forward to them each week. He had been able to read but was challenged with comprehension and remembering what he had read. His tutor, Amy, had an amazing idea to address this.” Last semester, Amy asked Clayton what he was interested in learning more about, and he told her that he wanted to learn about big cats. Amy checked out multiple books on the topic from the library, and after they read each book, she would work with him to write down key points from each book. As a final project, Clayton created his own personal book by typing up the most important points from each book and finding a picture to go with it. As Clayton read and wrote his reports, he gained confidence in his abilities to find information and share his knowledge. Graeme told us “Clayton is extremely proud of the books he has made, and being able to re-read them at home has helped him remember the important parts.” This semester, Clayton requested to learn about big birds.

Clayton has also participated in GiGi’s group programming and our adult education program. In the spring, he participated in our GiGi U pilot. Due to the small class size, the leaders were able to get to know the needs of each participant and individualize lesson plans to best meet the needs of each student. For example, Clayton researched and presented on sports like football, soccer, and baseball to parents and friends at the GiGi U graduation party. Clayton reports, “I liked picking the topic and learn[ing] about it.” Clayton has gained self-confidence from participating in the course and is interacting more in group activities. He is also sharing his thoughts and opinions more freely and not just agreeing with others.

Clayton’s mother, Graeme, said:

“Clayton enjoyed going and had a lot of fun. He was able to get closer to the other participants and start building a friendship with them.”

We are incredibly proud of Clayton’s accomplishments and are excited to see what he will achieve in the future with the launch of our full adult education program.

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