Where were you?

Where were you one year ago today?

We were sitting at a table in the Playhouse, on a call with our national office, Playhouse staff, and board members from many other locations. We were being told life and work as we knew it was changing…there were tears, some confusion, and lots of questions.

What about our programs? What about our families?

What, why, how??

We then had to announce to all of you that we were canceling all programs, events, and closing the Playhouse for the remainder of the month. Staff would be working from home! The focus would be on trying to plan for the coming weeks and months along with doing some catch-up on work that had been on the back burner.

Well…as you know that pattern continued…from one month to the next…however,

we NEVER gave up!

We thought out of the box not only locally but nationally too. Programs and events were being reimagined, rewritten, and planned from scratch.

Our national office quickly launched into action with GiGi’s At Home programs live and on-demand, PLUS the national Step to Accept event!

Locally, we quickly began planning to switch our annual gala (our largest fundraiser that was planned for April) from an in-person event to a virtual event. We were the first Playhouse to step up to the challenge of holding a virtual event and thanks to all of you it was a huge success!

In May and June, we began offering many of our local programs virtually including tutoring and speech. We were continuing to think outside of the box and plan programs to meet the needs of families and participants in the best ways we could.

In July, our staff returned to the Playhouse and were able to meet with volunteers and families by appointment in-person.

In the fall, we were finally able to offer some in-person one-on-one sessions. It was wonderful to finally see some of our friends at the Playhouse!!!! We also planned and held the annual Superhero Run/Walk (our second-largest fundraiser) virtually! What a fun day with amazing virtual interaction from many outlying locations!

Here we are a year later and still going strong! We’re proud of our staff, board, and volunteers for forging ahead in planning. We’re thankful for the families for embracing virtual programming, the volunteers and donors that have made those programs possible!  THANK YOU!

While we miss seeing many of you in person, virtual programs have been a blessing! Many of these programs have provided at-home kits to help extend the purposefulness and fun of participating from home along with the opportunity to see others in a safe way.

We know virtual programming isn’t for everyone but we also know for some it has been beneficial and enjoyed!

“In a year where physical human contact was so limited, GiGi’s virtual programs gave us the opportunity to not only continue important therapies and programs for Emma, but also connect with other kiddos and parents that we can’t see in person for awhile.  GiGi’s has been one of our lifelines to the outside world as we’ve worked to stay safe and also connected.  Thanks to all of the wonderful staff members, volunteers and families that make GiGi’s such a wonderful place!” – Emma’s Mom

Since March 13, 2020, there have been 964 participant check-ins with 948 participation hours. There were 177 participants (individuals with Ds and their family members) who have participated in some way; PLUS 95 volunteers have logged volunteer time since then! Pretty impressive during a pandemic!

Here’s a list of some of the purposeful programs we’ve continued to offer locally over the past year!

  • LMNOP (0-3 years)
  • 2 & U
  • Teen Tastic (13-17 years)
  • Fantastic Friends (18+)
  • GiGi’s Kitchen Kids, Teens, and Adults (6+)
  • GiGiFIT Kids, Teens, Adults, and Toddlers (6+)
  • Music (0-5 years)
  • Leaps & Bounds (3-5 years)
  • Literacy Tutoring (limited in-person)
  • Math Tutoring (limited in-person)
  • Speech & Language Therapy (limited in-person)
  • Family Speaker Series (parents and guardians)
  • Drive-Thru Holiday Parties and more!

Outside of programming, our staff has continued to attend virtual meetings, provide presentations to community groups, assist families with a variety of needs/requests, train new volunteers, write grants, oversee fundraising, and so much more!  In the coming weeks, they (staff) and the board will be discussing a plan to transition back to in-person group programming, but we need your input!

Please complete this survey to help guide them in planning.

For those of you that have enjoyed virtual, don’t worry, it’s not going away!! We are looking at the possibility of hybrid options to allow in-person participation along with virtual group programs. One-on-one tutoring and speech will continue to be available virtual or in-person.

“The virtual programs offered by GiGi’s have been wonderful for families, like ours, that live further away.  We’ve enjoyed the flexible scheduling with the abundant programs to choose from.” – Anonymous

Thank you all for sticking with us this past year and making it the best it could be despite COVID! Please know that when we do offer in-person group programs, we will continue to have COVID screening questions and mask requirements until further notice.

As always, our calendar has the most up-to-date information about what’s happening at GiGi’s. Visit our calendar HERE!

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