Kristal Watts, Acting President, Board of Directors
Kristal lives on the east side of the Greater Portland area with her husband, - Steve, her daughter - Claire, son -Thomas, and their golden retriever - Lily. After completing her undergraduate degree in biological studies at George Fox College (now university), Kristal completed her teaching credentials in Hawaii. Love called her back to Oregon where she is currently a stay-at-home mom and online educator. Thomas, Kristal’s smart and adorable son, has Down syndrome, and is the guiding force for Kristal’s passion to bring GiGi’s to Portland. It’s been a six-year dream to have a safe and fun place for families who have received a diagnosis of Down syndrome to hang out, make connections, and even have free therapy and tutoring services. If all goes well, the center will be able to provide on the job training, too. Thomas, his friends and many others will be able to come, grow, and be all they can be. GiGi’s Playhouses benefit the community they are in by involving volunteers and family members in free therapy services and community events. Kristal is looking forward to changing how our community looks at a person with a Down syndrome diagnosis.
Francisco (Caroline) Castillo, Acting Vice President, Board of Directors
Caroline and Francisco are recent arrivals from Michigan. They are both physicians, and met while in residency in Minnesota. They are very blessed to have Cisco, their beautiful 2.5 year-old son with Down syndrome, and Julian, his little brother. The Castillos moved their family to Portland in the summer of 2018 seeking a more inclusive community and better opportunities for Cisco. While in Michigan they became acquainted with GiGi’s Playhouse which was under construction in the Detroit metro area. When they learned that a GiGi’s was in the planning stages in Portland, they immediately know that they wanted to do everything they could to make this a reality. Caroline brings to the team her organizational skills and experience with event planning and fundraising. Francisco is Spanish-speaking, passionate about all things related to his family, and enjoys public speaking (really, he does!). The Castillos are excited to work with the team and community to bring GiGi’s to Portland soon.
John Clark, Treasurer, Board of Directors
John lives in southwest Portland with his wife Erin, daughter Taylor, and dogs Sammy and Kaya. He studied business at the University of Oregon, where he met Erin and earned a BS in Accounting. Since moving back to Portland in 2010 he has worked in accounting and finance roles at several companies, and currently serves as the Treasury Manager at OSU University Shared Services Enterprise. He and his wife welcomed Taylor, their first child, in May of 2018. Taylor is a sweet and sassy girl with a big personality and a bright future ahead of her. John is excited to work with this amazing team to help bring GiGi’s to Portland. A GiGi’s Playhouse would be amazing for the community, providing a welcoming place for individuals and families to grow, learn, and build connections in an encouraging and inclusive environment.
Kerry Haugh, Secretary, Board of Directors
Kerry is a Board Certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist at OHSU’s Down Syndrome Clinic at Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital. As a pediatric physical therapist for over 15 years, it has been and is a joy and privilege to serve children with Down syndrome and their families as a clinician and advocate. Kerry’s professional experience and education, along with her leadership and advocacy skills place her in a positive position to help the organization achieve its mission and goals. As a training coordinator for our pre and post doctorate PT program at OHSU, she mentors learners and professionals from a variety of health care fields who could partner with GiGi’s to strengthen the programs offered to the Down syndrome community. The mission of GiGi’s is incredibly close to my heart. Her older cousin Keith has Down syndrome. He is in his 50’s and now lives in a group home in California, but he grew up in an institution. She often wonders how his life (and my family’s) would be different if her aunt had an organization like GiGi’s to support her decision making in caring for Keith in his own community. Kerry vows to be part of the change to advocate for Down syndrome awareness and acceptance. Kerry is an enthusiastic, compassionate and a team player. Her hope is to bring her expertise and experience to GiGi’s Playhouse Portland where I can contribute to its growth and success.
Diana Connaughton, Grants
Diana moved to the Portland area for family and the amazing Pacific Northwest. She received a B.S. from the University of California at Davis, and a J.D. from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. When Diana discovered GiGi’s Playhouse she knew it was something special; something that would be her privilege to help bring to Oregon.
Megan Cederholm, Volunteer Coordinator
Megan Cederholm is a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). The Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) states that - in both healthcare and community settings, Certified Child Life Specialists help infants, children, youth and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of acute and chronic illness, injury, trauma, disability, loss and bereavement. They provide evidence-based, developmentally and psychologically appropriate interventions including therapeutic play, preparation for procedures, and education to reduce fear, anxiety, and pain. Being a CCLS means that she has many notches in her belt. Her biggest roles are to support, advocate, and educate for the individuals that she has the opportunity, honor, and privilege to work with.
Megan has a passion for helping, educating and learning. She loves being involved within the Portland community. When asked what would it mean to her for GiGi’s Playhouse to exist in Portland, she replied, “It would mean everything for Portland and the people that reside here to have a Down Syndrome Achievement Center. Portlanders are such an inclusive, growing community; to have a center that focuses on progressive programming for individuals with Down syndrome and their families is very important.” Megan wants to make sure that no family feels left behind, and GiGi’s Playhouse really promotes inclusivity, empowerment, and acceptance. Megan sees that the hardest part about coming to a GiGi’s Playhouse may be walking through the doors, but once you see the magic that happens, you won’t want to leave.
Kelsi Alexander, Member at Large
Kelsi is about family and goodwill. As a youth, she observed her grandmother's servant heart, firsthand. Her grandma was everyone's grandma. There wasn't a person she met that she didn't send away with food and love. Kelsi recalls helping her grandmother taking home leftovers from Sunday church service and making what they could out of what was left; they’d take a huge pot (bigger than her!) of left overs, walk down to the end of her road, and feed those in need. Even as a young girl, she will never forget the look in the eyes of the people that we were able to reach. The precious memories of these gifts in hand, decided her calling to help people and make sure they feel valued and loved.
She began caregiving at 18 years old and saw many things she adored and many more that broke her heart. Having experienced caregiving firsthand, she learned that there we some gaps in the model and that she could serve better by closing those gaps. With the help and support of her husband, Jake, who is also her business partner, they became entrepreneurs and started Leaps and Bounds, LLC.
Kelsi credits God with giving her the ability to lead with her heart and soul. With a strong desire to serve others, she strives to build lasting relationships with clients, staff, vendors, and the public. With her strengths of compassion and connection, she hopes to create an asset to GiGi's Playhouse Portland. Having a location in Portland would open the doors for SO many families in the Pacific Northwest! This would mean each family could receive many of the beautiful things GiGi's offers for FREE to them. GiGi's presence will also build overall awareness to others who may not have been aware of the value of those with Down syndrome.
Sheryl Pasamonte - Social Media Assist
Sheryl Pasamonte is a momma to an amazing two year old. She is originally from Maui and currently lives in Troutdale. Taking care of her father who is blind and raising Boogie are some of her main focuses. Sheryl is a lifestyle blogger and influencer on Instagram. She has a passion for bringing people together and creating fun events. Sheryl and her husband are passionate when it comes to Boogie’s development and want to help in bringing GiGi’s Playhouse to Portland for the Down syndrome community.
Justine Hively, Fundraising and Outreach Assist
Justine suspected there was something different about her newborn when he was about two months old. There was no suspicion during her pregnancy or after his birth. At the time, her husband was gone via an Army deployment. She was home alone and had thoughts that little boy, Everett might have Down syndrome. . At three months of age, Everett was officially diagnosed with Down syndrome. Like many mothers receiving a diagnosis of Down syndrome, she thought their lives would never be the same. Justine says their lives have changed, they have been changed for the better. After educating herself on all things Down syndrome, she realizes how much of a gift she was given. She works hard to do anything she can to support her son in his life. She believes being a part of GiGi’s Playhouse Portland will be a large asset in Everett's development and future. Bringing a place that will continue the support he has at home and also the support of his many fans, will help Everett be his BEST OF ALL! In addition, it will help others with Down syndrome, their families, and the communities they are in.
Thank you to the initial start-up members: Laura Wells, Sierra Tran, Kymberlee Lake, Nina Parker, Mary Chernishoff, Nancy Williams, Margaux Wagenmann, Cory Ferris, Stefanie Loebach, and Liz Wagner. We also want to thank the many others who are not listed here, but have helped in outreach and fundraising efforts.
Will you help us?
We could really use individuals with great leadership skills who are team players and have a desire to make this world a better place. Sign up to volunteer today.