GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix Introduces “GiGi’s On The Go”

Article submitted by:

Daily Independent

By Cyrus Guccione

GiGi’s Playhouse expands reach . . . .

Down syndrome nonprofit in Scottsdale goes mobile

PHOTO COURTESY OF RANDY BINGHAM

“The founder of the Down syndrome achievement center GiGi’s Playhouse in Scottsdale is expanding its reach beyond the walls of its nonprofit at the corner of 92nd Street and Shea Boulevard.

Introducing GiGi on the GO, Jennifer Gage wants to provide Down syndrome programming for those who don’t have the capability to visit the 5,000-square-foot achievement center.

Serving over 1,000 families in the last 10 years, Gage says there are many more families who need support but simply do not have the means or transportation.

“We said, ‘If can’t get the kids to the programs, how can we get the programs to the kids?’” Gage said, whose 28-year-old daughter Kaitlyn Gage has Down syndrome and visits GiGi’s four days a week.

Offering free therapeutic and educational opportunities such as advanced literacy, math skills, motor skills and more for people with Down syndrome, Gage wants to expand GiGi’s reach to ensure everyone gets the help and resources they need.”

Transporting kindness

“Gage and her team have already raised the money for a new van to travel around the state. The van will soon be wrapped and her team will begin finalizing a curriculum with plans to start traveling in the fall.

With a vision to visit cities like Tucson, Prescott and Flagstaff, Gage says she wants to start locally first.

“We want to hit the West Valley, South Phoenix the East Valley and we’d love to help on the Indian reservations,” Gage said. “We have a lot of aspirations but we’re going to start here in our own backyard first.”

This isn’t the first time Gage has expanded GiGi’s Playhouse. The Down Syndrome Achievement Center already encompasses a variety of services including an adult learning program (GiGi U), an internship program (Gigi’s Studio Café), a healthy lifestyle and cooking program (Gigi’s Kitchen) and a fitness program for people of all ages with Down syndrome (GigiFIT).

“We have a group of mothers that go into hospitals and give beautiful gift baskets to new mothers with a baby with Down syndrome,” Gage said, hoping to expand that program as well.

She also envisions going to remote, underserved areas of Arizona to help establish satellite programs in churches and community centers around the state.

“Really where we are headed is, ‘How do we get this into everyone’s hands so that they can run these programs in their own towns.””

Confidence to grow

“Gage said being part of GiGi’s worldwide organization has given her the confidence to run her own business, owning six assisted stretching studios called StretchLab in Scottsdale and Phoenix. She plans to open a seventh location in the fall of this year.

“Without GiGi’s, I don’t think I ever would have bought StretchLab,” Gage said.

As an Arizona State University alumnus, Gage was twice awarded ASU’s Sun Devil 100 award which recognizes leaders who demonstrate innovation, growth and entrepreneurial spirit. She was also selected as a finalist for the NASCAR Foundation’s 13th Annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian award which recognizes NASCAR fans who volunteer for children’s causes.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, GiGi’s continued its programming online, reaching families all over the state of Arizona. Gage says while virtual programming was not as effective as in-person programming, GiGi on the GO is the next iteration of reaching more Arizona families with Down syndrome.

“People with Down syndrome have visions of who they want to be and what they want to do with their lives, and it’s a lot more than bagging groceries,” Gage said. “With Kaitlyn, I felt like I had a loud voice for her and I could have a loud voice for others.”

GiGi’s relies on grants and public donations to provide the free programming it offers to people with Down syndrome, their families and volunteers.

GiGi’s Playhouse is located at 9160 E. Shea Blvd. in Scottsdale.

To support GiGi’s Playhouse and to find out more, visit gigisplayhouse.org/phoenix/ or call 480-451-7529.”

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