Grand Opening 2016

A Grand Day in the Triangle

Saturday, June 18th, is now another day that will live in my heart forever.  Not just for the momentous Grand Opening of GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh, but for the crystal clear validation it provided in the moments of the day.  Validation that many families will be helped by GiGi’s; that our community at large will grow because of GiGi’s (both in understanding and involvement) and most importantly; that our children, our beloved children, will grow in their learning opportunities and in acceptance.

It starts with when I walk up at 2:05…things are in FULL swing.  There are people EVERYWHERE.  I look at the crowd in front of GiGi’s entrance, easily a hundred outside.  I look to the field, full of kids and families, and volunteers seemed to match the headcount of attendees.  The emotion of the moment seizes me and the tears flow.  My words choke as I say, “Oh my goodness, look at all these people!”

I get my act together enough to check-in at the registration table, take the sunglasses off, wipe the tears away and go inside.  Another hundred people it seems.  Faster than you can say “where’s my tissue”, more tears come.   Standing room only.  Parents, kids, local community supporters – an overwhelmingly beautiful sight!

I make my way back outside, buy a few t-shirts, talk to a few parents, then I head to the field to find the rest of my family.   Eli on the swing set enjoying the blue skies of the day.  Carter is saying hi to (wait for it) a baby.  He LOVES those babies!   Claudia has quickly found yummy food (waffles) donated by yet another amazing local community member.

The feel-good moments start taking over.  The first:  a young man cutting loose and dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” in the wide open field.  When I say he was “in the zone”,  I mean he was FEELIN’ it and it was pure joy watching him!    Next up, I listen to the speakers presenting prior to the Ribbon Cutting ceremony.  Story after story, the tears flowed. Tears of joy. Tears of resilience. Tears of a positive future.

One particular story inspired me to the core.  The story of a single mom.  A single mom with a beautiful daughter.  A daughter that she dreams and hopes for relentlessly.  Dreams of the “skies the limit” variety.  And she’s doing all this dream fulfilling, while juggling a corporate job because that’s HOW she, and only she, can make it all happen.  I am MOM, hear me roar – Whoa!  I’m in awe of this momma-warrior.

And then, the story that brought it all home and wrapped it up in a beautiful “Tiffany Blue Box” moment for me was overhearing a dad share his story.  A casual conversation, not intended for me, yet I couldn’t help myself.  His story, slightly abridged, went something like this…

“…before coming here we have never been around any families with a child like ours.  There are only a few in our county.  It’s wonderful to see so many like us.”

I move in a little closer to hear more, and am greeted by their gorgeous, smile-filled baby boy, who happens to have Down syndrome.   He is a few months old and has gorgeous hair to match the twinkly smile.  The story continues:

“…We drove down from Virginia because friends of ours here told us about the Grand Opening.”  They drove hours to come to this event.  Hours!  As a result, they were able to look around a room and not feel alone.  Not feel different.  They experienced what it was like to be surrounded by this incredible tribe.  This beautiful place where we lift our children up and celebrate their milestones like it’s the 4th of July or something.  Truth be told, it does kind of feel like that, often!

The Down syndrome journey is more beautiful than I can ever possibly describe in one post.  But, I hope that in this one, tiny snapshot of an afternoon, you can see how much our journey is not much different than that of any other parent.  Dreams, goals, community – we enjoy them all!  Welcome to the Triangle GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh.  Thank you Nancy Stinger- Gianni for the trails you’ve blazed to make Down syndrome part of the global conversation.  #GenerationG #DownSyndrome #CountingBlessings

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  1. Karen Coleman on August 7, 2017 at 11:21 am

    I have a 9 month baby girl with DS and although I live 50 mins away, would love to get her involved here and there! Her name is Kasyn.

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