It’s time to celebrate!
We are thrilled to announce the achievement of GiGi’s Playhouse NYC reaching the milestone of having over 1,000 participants with Down syndrome join our family!
There are so many people who have contributed countless volunteer and staff hours strategizing and implementing our development, reaching out to families, and of course, participating in our purposeful programs. We are excited to have our GiGi’s NYC founders Tracy Nixon and Debbie Morris address this stunning achievement, and how we got here.
Debbie and Tracy both have daughters with Down syndrome and like every family, they wanted to create something for their daughters that would enrich and grow the community around them. Debbie told us, “I wanted Sophia to have friends when she hit her teen years, wanted her to get to know her community and have a place to go where she felt completely at home and at ease with herself. She was 7 when GiGi’s NYC opened up; now that she’s a teen we’ve built what I hoped for!” Tracy spoke about her daughter Laura and added “Like Debbie, I knew Laura would need to be connected to her community long before her typical friendships changed. That has been a very difficult process for Laura and her GiGi’s community has been exactly what she needed at exactly the right time.”
Along with every success or victory, there are bound to be some challenges along the way. When we asked our Founders about those eye-opening experiences, we learned that finding space for lease with the required size and accessibility was one of the biggest hurdles along with fundraising. “We worked hard to create the vision that potential donors could see, even before opening up the Playhouse.” said Debbie. Now we are able to look back on those challenges and appreciate all of the hard work, because of the tireless efforts of so many volunteers and supporters, we have grown to be a community staple in so many peoples lives every single day!
GiGi’s Playhouse NYC strives to change the way the world sees Down syndrome through national campaigns, educational and therapeutic programming and global advocacy. But not only are we changing peoples perceptions on a broad level, we are also changing the hearts and minds of those who are close to us every single day. Tracy tells us her family members also look to GiGi’s for updates on the larger Down syndrome news and specific Playhouse happenings. “Laura’s very proud of GiGi’s and loves promoting it at any time!” Debbie mentions, “We are all team GiGi’s! It’s wonderful when I speak to family members near and far and update them on Playhouse news! It’s a terrific bond we share, caring about the Down syndrome community, supporting the Playhouse and making a difference. ”
When we asked our founders how the Playhouse has impacted and changed them personally, they had even more to say. Debbie adds
“I play a role in making a difference in people’s lives. And it wasn’t through my career. It was through hard work, tears of happiness and frustration, and a desire to make my city a better and more inclusive place for people with Down syndrome. I witness milestones made by our community at the Playhouse, and see the joy and pride on a caregiver’s face when they are watching their child during a GiGi’s (NYC) program. These moments make me cry tears of happiness. I feel so fortunate to be able to contribute to the Playhouse and to our members.” “GiGi’s NYC is an important resource for ALL families and individuals connected to Down syndrome. Says Tracy, “Not just those who might have financial means, or live in a particular part of town or attend a particular school. I have met and am so pleased to be connected to a wonderful group of families, volunteers, employees and board members that I truly admire.”
We believe that GiGi’s is valuable to every community and beyond. We want to enrich the lives of our families, participants and volunteers, but also our community to grow and expand their acceptance and expectations of what individuals with Down syndrome are truly capable of, and it starts locally, in Harlem every day. “Our community is so NYC!” says Tracy, “We embrace our city’s dynamic cultural identity and the Playhouse is very much the face of our community.” Debbie follows that “Our children and loved ones deserve a place to be together and to be themselves. Plus, the neighborhood benefits by having our community in its midst. So many people stop to look in the windows, smile and wave, stop in to say hello. As the number of Playhouses grows, acceptance of our constituents does as well. Everyone has a place in society.”
Sometimes it may feel as though we have so many successes, it may be too hard to choose our favorite. Today, we are very proud of our growth and ability to expand our reach to support over 1,000 families within the last 8 years. 2020 has been a challenge for most families and individuals right now coping with COVID-19, but we hope that you will be able to find hope and joy with us today as we celebrate this milestone for our community.
If you are new to the Playhouse and have yet to experience a GiGi’s Playhouse NYC Program, we are currently offering virtual programs weekly to give resources and support to families during this time. View our Calendar and Register today. GiGi’s Playhouse NYC is “the happiest place on earth!” says Debbie and we can’t wait to connect with you when we are able to in person and blast some karaoke with you and your family, Tracy, Laura, Debbie, and Sophia.
We miss you and wish you and your families’ health and safety and look forward to our return back to the Playhouse.