Laura Currier, Board President and Director of Medical Outreach
A very active member of the community and resident of Arizona for 36 years, Laura joined GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix three years ago as the Program Leader for GiGi’s Signature Language, Music ‘N Our Peeps (LMNOP) program. She is proud of the progressive growth in the Phoenix program since her start. Laura holds a BS in Speech Pathology/Audiology from Bradley University and a Master’s Degree in Speech Pathology with a Minor in Special Education from Arizona State University as has been a professional Speech Pathologist with the public school system for more than 16 years. Laura currently serve as the PTO Board President for Kiva and Mohave Schools and is a member of the Desert Foundation Auxiliary Board. As a fitness enthusiast, Laura coached Special Olympics for many years and was a Board Member and Board President for Xavier Girls Preparatory School. Laura is married and mother to three young adults.
Jennifer Gage, Founder GiGi’s Playhouse Scottsdale/Phoenix
GiGi’s Playhouse has given me a platform to make the world a better place for my 20-year-old daughter Kaitlyn, who has Down syndrome. When she was born, there were little to no resources for parents to help navigate this diagnosis. GiGi’s offers a holistic approach to families; not just helping the person with Down syndrome, but their parents, siblings, extended family and so forth. GiGi’s Playhouse is making real-time impact on peoples lives right in our own community and I am excited to be on the front lines of a movement for acceptance, kindness and generosity.
Robin Lea-Amos, Executive Director
Robin is the inaugural Executive Director of GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix. Robin is a nonprofit professional with more than 10 years of experience in grant administration, board governance and communication, management, public speaking, meeting and event planning, development, fundraising and community engagement. She is also the proud grandparent of Jackson, who was born in 2015 with the incredible gift of Down syndrome.
Robin most recently graduated from the ASU Lodestar School with an Executive Leadership Certificate and has been an active member of several nonprofit boards, including Special Olympics of Arizona, GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix and Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation.
She and her husband spend as much time as possible with their children and grandchildren and have become advocates wherever they can to educate people on Down syndrome. In her spare time, Robin quilts, practices yoga and hikes on the many Valley trails that she has called home since moving to Arizona when she was six months old.
Nicole Abbott, Board Treasurer
Nicole is a CPA and Director of Dobridge & Company, P.C. where she has worked for nearly a decade. Nicole is passionate about her community and also serves as the treasurer of the Coronado Neighborhood Association. Nicole is the proud mother of Lincoln (4) and Jude (2).
Cindy Marie Judy, Director of Programs
After one visit to a GiGi’s Playhouse with a friend, Cindy Marie knew she wanted to join the GiGi’s family. She is a passionate educator whose career has spanned nearly 40 years, encompassing every grade from preschool through college. Her teaching emphasis has been special education and gifted education. Cindy Marie finds joy in seeing the positive outcomes of her work with children and parents as they experience the broad range of programs offered such as Speech and Language, Math, Arts and Music.
Marlene Schatzman, Director of Family Outreach
Family is everything to Marlene! She is the mother to four amazing young adults, has an unbelievably supportive husband, has a wonderful daughter- and son-in-law and is grandmother to one beautiful little girl. Best of all, she has one son, Brett, who was born with Down syndrome and when her family moved to Phoenix from Chicago, was fortunate to find GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix. Marlene knew the minute they walked through the doors and were welcomed by everyone with open arms, that they were where Brett needed to be.
After seeing how much Brett receives from GiGi’s Playhouse, Marlene knew she wanted to give back. She has always felt support from family and friends and from that experience she knows all families experiencing a Down syndrome diagnosis need that same love and support. Marlene is a former teacher and uses her passion for family and learning to support the many friends that have now become their second family at GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix.
Brett Schatzman, Honorary Board Member and Self-Advocate
Brett is a 28-year-old young man full of life! He has affectionately been dubbed the “Mayor” of GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix” because of his genuine care for people and willingness to always greet everyone with kindness and a smile. In addition to serving as an Honorary Board member, he most recently co-chaired the GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix 2020 Gala. Brett recently graduated from GiGi U and will soon be interning in the Phoenix Playhouse’s new Studio Cafe. Brett loves his family, sports, music, cooking/baking, working out, meeting new friends, and of course his “home away from home,” GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix. Most days you will find Brett at GiGi’s, either volunteering or participating in every program offered for his age group.
Damon Wake, Director
Damon became acquainted with GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix when his firm, Candelaria Design Associates, began supporting the build out of GiGi U and GiGi’s Café with their generous donation of time and talent. As Project Manager with the firm, he worked side-by-side with GiGi’s to design each space, obtain city and county permits, and coordinate the build out.
Damon grew up with an older brother who has Cerebral Palsy and has experienced the impact living with a special needs person can have on a family. This experience allowed him to understand how sensitive special needs families can be to design. He feels such joy from the immeasurable impact this work has been on him as well as how meaningful it is to others. He counts his involvement with GiGi’s as one of the most rewarding projects he has ever been lucky enough to support. Watching GiGi's Playhouse grow from Playhouse to University, and to see how the community has grown with it, is truly an inspiration to him. He is honored by the opportunity to serve the GiGi’s community and looks forward to remaining supportive in the years to come.
Elena Wandler, Board Secretary
Elena is an Arizona native and with her husband Orion of 14 years, are parents to two amazing boys. Ethan is almost 14 years old and getting ready to start high school. Dylan is 4 years old and was born with Down syndrome. Dylan’s diagnosis came with many difficult medical issues and he was terribly fragile for a couple of years. Once he was healthy enough to venture beyond the home or the hospital, Elena, and Orion’s first stop was GiGi’s Playhouse. All it took was just one visit and they were hooked! Elena said their family has gotten so much from the Playhouse that she knew that she wanted to be more involved and find a way to give back. Elena joined the Board as Secretary and took over an exciting new role as volunteer coordinator. In her enthusiastic and engaging personality, she is excited to see what the future holds.
Cathy Judge, Co-Director of Operations
As a member of the initial Startup Committee for GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix more than six years ago, Cathy joyfully accepted her role to co-manage operations of the site. Cathy’s extensive operations management experience was invaluable in the startup of the Phoenix Playhouse. As the grandmother of a young adult with Down syndrome and the mother of GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix Founder, Jennifer Gage, Cathy is passionate about the success of the Playhouse and is grateful to serve the hundreds of families who refer to it as their “home away from home.”
Sheri Kelly, Co-Director of Operations
Sheri Kelly has been involved with GiGi's Playhouse Phoenix from the planning stages as a member of the initial Startup Committee more than six years ago. She is the proud mother of her daughter with Down syndrome who considers the Playhouse her second home. Her background in accounting and as Manager of Operations for over 14 years of a federally-funded TRIO Educational Program in San Francisco, makes her the perfect fit for site coordination and the operations support she provides to GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix.
Christopher Hall – Director of Adult Participant Engagement
Chris, along with his wife Kristin, has been active in the Down syndrome community since the birth of their son Tyler in 1994. An entrepreneur, high school basketball coach, and advocate for individuals and families impacted by Down syndrome, Chris joined GiGi’s Playhouse after 25 years in the technology space, working with some of the biggest brands in the industry. Chris is passionate about providing resources, programs, and support for individuals with Down syndrome and their families from birth to adulthood - with a special focus on caregiving, public health and supporting aging adults where resources are especially limited and rare. Chris holds a BA in Business Administration and a BA in Management from the University of Phoenix, has served as a board member for Special Olympics of Western Colorado, and the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce. Chris, Kristin, and Tyler live in Scottsdale, and golf as often as possible with Tyler behind the wheel of the cart.
Louann Phillips - Director of Marketing
Louann Phillips is a proud Arizona native who grew up in the West Valley. She learned young (from a father who was a small town Police Chief and a mother who always volunteered) that helping others in need is rewarding.
After graduating with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Arizona State University, she began her career as a marketing, communication and event planning professional, both employed by and consulting with a variety of nonprofits. When she learned of GiGi’s Playhouse and their purpose to send a global message of acceptance for all, she was hooked.
Most rewarding to Louann is her role as a mother. She enjoys time with her daughters Annabelle and Klara, whether it be shuttling them to activities or joining them in discovering the amazing dining options our community offers.