This week, we are spotlighting our incredible volunteer, Aaron Koch! Aaron is an active volunteer within our community who is involved in an array of programs and events, including Zumba, Rising Stars, and our upcoming fundraiser, Dancing for Down Syndrome. We hope you enjoy getting to know Aaron below.
When did you become involved with GiGi’s NYC?
In the Fall of 2019, I became an “empty-nester” when my second son headed off to college. I began to think about finding an organization that I could volunteer with as I did back in the mid-1990s before my children were born. I spent several years volunteering with Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and helping out with the NYC AIDS Walk. I also had the pleasure to assist with the AIDS Memorial Quilt project that brought the quilt to the Columbia University campus. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, and my kids moved back home, I put these volunteering thoughts on hold. Then, in early December, I joined GiGi’s NYC.
Why did you decide to start volunteering with us?
I have a good friend who lives outside of New York City who has a nine-year-old son with Down syndrome. She has shared many stories and pictures of him with me. She has also shared the challenges of raising a child with Down syndrome, especially in a rural area. I wanted to learn more about Down syndrome, so I read the book, The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places. I decided that I wanted to volunteer with an organization that provides services to children and their families with Down syndrome, so I searched the web and found GiGi’s NYC. I signed up to volunteer, and my journey began.
What do you do as a volunteer?
I started as the Program Assistant for Rising Stars, an improv class, and have quickly accepted other opportunities to assist with other programs, like the weekly Zumba class, and special events. I love getting to know the participants. I often sign on about 15 minutes before the session, and the participants will arrive shortly thereafter, which gives me time to chat with them about a variety of things before the session begins, like the favorite things they like to do. What I find so fascinating is that some participants will sign on and join a program even though they aren’t in a place where they can really participate. They seem to just like the interaction with others, and being included.
What does volunteering with GiGi’s NYC mean to you?
I am thrilled to be a part of GiGi’s NYC. I love that there are so many opportunities for participants and parents to interact, have fun, and support each other. It’s also exciting to know that there is a network of Playhouses around the country. Individuals with Down syndrome are the happiest people I know. They are so curious, loving, and carefree. Like all people, they just want to be loved and supported. And, the parents also need a support mechanism to discuss their successes and challenges of raising a child with Down syndrome. My goal as a volunteer is not only to support the organization, but to bring awareness about Down syndrome back into my communities with which I interact.
Aaron, we are so inspired by your beautiful and thoughtful words and cannot thank you enough for all the value that you bring to our community. Spreading awareness about Down syndrome is at the core of our mission, and we truly thank you for helping us to achieve this important goal. Please join us in thanking Aaron for his generosity and willingness to serve the GiGi’s NYC community!