2018 Gala Award Recipients

We are happy to share with you more information about each of the categories for the 2018 gala awards as well as the winners for this year.

We have many younger individuals that come to the Playhouse throughout the year that do a variety of tasks at and for the Playhouse. Some of the younger volunteers are as young as 8 and others are college students that begin helping to complete a class assignment. Some are only around for a day but others continue to return and their involvement with the Playhouse grows. That is the case for the individual we have chosen as the Young Leader of the Year.

Mara Guse is the 2018 Young Leader of the Year!

Mara is a current college student that volunteers as a tutor, a program leader and program volunteer. She has also encouraged her roommates to volunteer as well. Their house on campus is named after the Playhouse. She and her roommates are currently planning the World Down Syndrome Day Celebration for March 21st at the Rogalski Center on the St Ambrose Campus. We hope  you will join us there!


Educational programs are such an important part of what we do at GiGi’s Playhouse.   We train tutors on the GiGi’s Playhouse Literacy and Math curriculum and entrust them to help teach these amazing children and adults how they learn best.  Tutors spend a minimum of 2-3 hours at training sessions and then commit to spending 45 minutes a week for 8-10 weeks with a designated student.  All of our tutors are amazing. This tutor stepped out of his comfort zone to learn as much as he could about tutoring in math and took on several students his first tutoring session.

Bill Curnyn is the 2018 Outstanding Tutor of the Year!

Some of you may know Bill as Leah’s dad. He and his wife currently sit on the programs committee and when he heard we were in need of a math tutor he stepped up despite being nervous about it. He is also one of the amazing engineers that helps lead Science Nights in the summer. He has done an outstanding job!



We have standout volunteers in all areas, but sometimes one particular volunteer stands out among the rest.  One who goes above and beyond what we could possibly ask of them.  This year’s award winner is new not only to the Playhouse but to the USA. She has been a godsend this past year and has come to the Playhouse to help with mailings, program preparation needs, and is always just an email away. Because of her willingness to help with just about anything we felt she deserved to receive the Volunteer of the Year award.

Paula Lund is the 2018 Volunteer of the Year!

Paula recently relocated to the United States from Australia and has jumped right in as a volunteer at the Playhouse. We love hearing the stories she shares about her son Josh who has Down syndrome and still lives in Australia with his friends and caretakers. We know she misses him terribly but we are honored to have her here.



All programming at GiGi’s Playhouse is offered at no cost to our families which means we have to provide funding for all programs through events, grants and support from private donors, corporate donors, families and friends. We also work hard to inform the community about our services and Down syndrome in general. Thankfully we have many families who take pride in advocating for their children and spreading the word about GiGi’s Playhouse and the services we offer. In the past year, this couple has made the time to represent GiGi’s at a number of resource fairs and community fundraisers all while advocating for the Playhouse and the families that participate. They are always thinking outside the box to bring new ideas to table about fundraising and raising awareness.

Chad & Susanna Johnson are the 2018 Advocates of the Year!

Chad is a current board member and he and Susanna sit on several committees at the Playhouse including the planning committee for tonight’s event. Some of you may know them as Mila’s Mom and Dad. They like to be the volunteers that help quietly behind the scene so they humbly accepted.



Nationwide GiGi’s has a campaign called generationG. This campaign instills the need to be accepting, generous, and kind. This year’s generationG award winner is an active community member and a professional that touches the lives of new families in a kind and compassionate way.

The generation G award this year goes to Briana Barclay.

Unfortunately, she was not in attendance at the gala but a family that has been on the receiving end of her generation G nature came to the stage to share their story and support for Briana’s award. They experienced firsthand the generationG nature that Briana brings to her workforce and the community.




We want to thank all of these volunteers but also all of YOU for helping the Playhouse achieve it’s best of all!

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