ALL things GiGi’s with Elizabeth H
If you are a frequent visitor of GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh then you have probably met Elizabeth Heenan, a 37-year-old woman with Down syndrome who is a very active member of GiGi’s! She has been volunteering and participating at GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh since 2017! We wanted to learn more about her experiences here, so we decided to have a chat, just us girls! Nicolette Moinet from the National Office, Caroline Tate from the Raleigh Playhouse, and Elizabeth all sat in a circle with Shania Twain playing in the background to talk ALL THINGS GiGi’s!
We started chatting about a program that she is weekly participating in: Speech 1:1. “I am currently working hard on my S sound, Th sound, R sound, and Z sounds during speech,” she says with pride. With speech enabling participants to have one-on-one time with the graduate students + licensed SLP, she can practice more and its “simpler with only two people” says Elizabeth. “Right now, I am reading New Moon, and Dr.Tom (SLP) is my favorite, but I love all my friends. They ask my sounds and I like speech because it helps me to speak clearly” she says.
Elizabeth then went on to tell us about how she volunteers in many different ways in the Playhouse. She participates in Moon Angel Sweets brigadeiro classes, where this summer she spent time with other participants and volunteers making chocolate truffles! https://moonangelsweets.com/
As a Kids club volunteer, she helps both in person and with the virtual program where she encourages our school age friends (ages 6-12) as they color, do show & share and play bingo. She absolutely loves playing handbells, because the program is a new hobby. Our handbells program consists of the program leader holding color coded cards and each participant has a color of the handbell, they play the handbell that matches the color shown on the cards. She holds her bells up and she watches for her color that signals her to play her bell. Her favorite moment of the handbells program was the 2021 outside performance, “Lots of people came to watch us outside and my whole family watched the group play handbells. When I play, I feel happy, and others who are watching feel happy also.”
She is not only a hard worker, but she has a big personality that we adore having around at GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh! She loves to sing Shania Twain and Backstreet Boys. Her favorite person is her Mom and Dad who are also very involved in GiGi’s. Her favorite meal is corn, mashed potatoes, and steak. She is always ready to give hugs and cheer us on. She also loves GiGi’s Yoga program and 21 stars program which is a program that enhances social skills so our participants are confident speaking in public and in community settings with or without peers.
Elizabeth then told us about her favorite part of volunteering at GiGi’s which is writing cards in our gratitude committee where she thanks donors and volunteers for all they do at the playhouse. “I love helping my community. I tell my friends that I love GiGi’s. I’m a part of the programs and I get help here. My friends at GiGi’s are kind, and the classes make me strong and healthy,” she says.
She wants the community to know that she is very smart and loves people. She is a hard worker, and she is incredibly proud of the work she does here. She helps staff when there are admin needs. “I give tours at GiGi’s, and we are all working alongside each other, both staff and volunteers. I call it teamwork!”
Thank you, Elizabeth, for all the joy you bring to the Playhouse and all the ways you support the Raleigh community! You are an incredible woman!
“Be happy everyone, because then you feel good about the world.”- Elizabeth Heenan