Our Team

Board of Directors

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Michelle Pfeiffer, President

Michelle lives in Cary with her husband and three children, Andrew, Anna, and Ashley.  Her daughter Anna has Down syndrome and provides the passion for her to help improve the lives of individuals with Down syndrome.  Michelle is also the Founder and Director of Anna’s Angels Foundation, a nonprofit foundation focused on funding Down syndrome research at Duke Children’s Hospital and Health Center.  Anna’s Angels mission is to improve the cognitive and communicative ability of individuals with Down syndrome.

 

Michelle Schwab, GiGi's Playhouse Raleigh Board Member

Michelle Schwab, Vice President

Michelle lives in Apex, in an empty nest with her husband Robert after their 3 sons including Matthew, who is 24 and has Down syndrome, have moved out. After 20+ years as a stay-at-home mom and community volunteer, Michelle now helps manage Matthew's public speaking business and supports Matthew as he navigates living independently. Michelle became involved in the Down syndrome community when Matthew was born and has stayed involved ever since. She is grateful to have been part of the start-up team for GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh and to serve on the Board of Directors. 

Rachel Geer, GiGi's Playhouse Raleigh Board Member

Rachel Geer, Secretary

Rachel and her husband Ed live in Chapel Hill with their three boys TJ, Deuce & Kendall, who has Down syndrome. Rachel was part of the GiGi's Playhouse Raleigh start-up committee and serves on the Board of Directors. Rachel & Ed place a strong emphasis on education and GiGi’s Playhouse is an integral part of helping Kendall reach his full potential. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from NC State University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Elon University. Rachel works as a Contract Development Manager at ViiV Healthcare.

Maria Romano, GiGi's Playhouse Raleigh Board Member

Maria Fumagalli de Romano, Board member / New Family Coordinator

Maria is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina and has lived in Chapel Hill, NC since July of 1993. She and her husband Francisco have three children: Maria (age 30), Lucia who has Down syndrome (age 25), and Francisco (age 23). Maria was a stay-at-home mom for most of her children's upbringing. Maria volunteered in the early stages when Triangle Down Syndrome Network was being formed (now the North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance). In 2015 Maria was a part of the GiGi's Playhouse Raleigh start-up committee and she continues to serve on the Board as the New Family Coordinator. For the past 11 years, she has been working at UNC Craniofacial Center as a Spanish Interpreter.

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Denise Hards, Treasurer

Having spent 25 years in North Carolina, Denise relocated to Southern Pines upon her retirement from Duke Energy in 2020. With over 40 years of experience in the financial field, she held various roles, progressing from accountant to vice president of finance and treasurer. Since 2017, Denise's cousin's family has actively participated in and supported GiGi’s Playhouse. Honored to contribute, Denise provides financial management and guidance to the board and organization, aligning with the goals and mission of GiGi’s Playhouse.

Lauren Kilpatrick, GiGi's Playhouse Raleigh Board Member

Lauren Leeper, Board Member

Lauren returned to the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill to join the faculty as a Pediatric Otolaryngologist (or Pediatric ENT Surgeon) in 2014.  Having attended UNC for her undergraduate degree, she is a true Tarheel through and through!  She provides care for many wonderful patients with Ds and has loved introducing them and their families to GiGi's Playhouse!  Her hope is to increase awareness in the medical community about GiGi's to provide better access to resources and community for individuals with Ds. Lauren and her husband Bradley live in Chapel Hill with their children Sutton and Carr and dogs Rusty and Hagrid.

Anita Spence, GiGi's Playhouse Raleigh Board Member

Anita Spence, Board Member

For the past 20 years, Anita has called North Carolina home with her husband, Tim, and three daughters, Amanda, Morgan and Torrey. She studied Political Science at The Ohio State University and is passionate about public policy in her work at the North Carolina General Assembly. While working for Representative John Bradford, their office was the first in North Carolina history to provide individuals with Down syndrome opportunities for internships. It was through this initiative that she came in contact with and became an advocate for GiGi's Playhouse.

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Bryan Huffman, Board Member

Bryan Huffman is the Chief Financial Officer for Williams Realty & Building Company. Bryan has extensive financial and real estate experience with over two decades of senior leadership. Prior to working at Williams Realty & Building Company, Bryan worked for 26 years at the YMCA of the Triangle, with the last 10 as Chief Financial Officer. In his current role, Bryan oversees Finance, Accounting, IT and Human Resources at Williams as the company plans significant growth in the coming years. Bryan received both his Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration from North Carolina State University. He enjoys spending time with his family at the beach, and is involved in various charitable organizations around the Triangle area. He lives in Cary, NC with his wife and two children. Volunteering at GiGi’s is a family affair. Bryan’s wife and daughter are regular volunteers at various GiGi’s programs.

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Sonna Raman, Board Member

Sonna is passionate about inclusion and believes everyone offers something unique to the world. As a beneficiary of GiGi's programs, she is excited to grow the organization and help others benefit. Sonna is a native Virginian and now considers North Carolina home. She is President of NuPulse, a Raleigh-based clinical stage medtech company creating a device for heart failure.

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Lossie Smalls-Webb, Board Member

Lossie Smalls-Webb, an ageless woman born on October 23, 1947, grew up in a loving family in Pantego, North Carolina. Her father, a minister and Grassroots Civil Rights leader, instilled in her a passion for equal rights. With a strong desire for education and achievement, she became the Salutatorian of her high school class in 1966. Choosing North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, she became the first in her family to receive a higher education degree in business administration. Inspired by her upbringing, Lossie developed an interest in defending the rights of others, which led her to work as a consultant for minority small businesses and as a realtor in Charleston, South Carolina. As a devoted mother of three sons and caregiver to two grandsons, she became a champion for special needs individuals and their families. Lossie's advocacy work intensified during her time with the Family Support Organization in New Jersey, where she fought against the mistreatment of children with special needs. In the community, she volunteered as a Literacy Tutor and serves as a docent at the NC Museum of History. Professionally, Lossie is a licensed Life Insurance Agent in Primerica, aiming to educate and support families in protecting their loved ones with insurance.

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Matthew Schwab, Board Member

Matthew Schwab is a 25-year-old North Carolina native who recently realized a life-long dream of living on his own, in an apartment with his younger brother.

​In addition to being a public speaker (check out MatthewSchwabSpeaks.com), Matthew works at Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits. In addition to serving on the Board of GiGi’s, Matthew volunteers as an ambassador and gives Playhouse tours. He recently began serving on the Board of First in Families of NC as well.

Matthew is passionate about raising awareness about Down syndrome and the entire IDD community. In 2019, he gave a TEDx talk about the importance of employing those with IDD.
Matthew and his long-time girlfriend have been learning to ballroom dance for about 2 years.

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Jeanhee Hoffman, Executive Director

Jeanhee and her husband live in Cary, after raising their two sons in Chapel Hill for 17 years. After visiting the National GiGi’s Playhouse in 2015 in Chicago, she wanted to help open the first GiGi’s Playhouse in North Carolina. Her younger brother, Sam, who has Down syndrome, was her inspiration to provide a “place” for families like hers to come and learn through their programs. She left a 26-year career in the finance world to fully dedicate her time to bring awareness and build relationships in our community to change the perception of Down syndrome.

Jeanhee’s role started as Founder, then President from 2016 through 2019, and currently serves as Executive Director. One thing is consistent: her belief in our participants and their futures.

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Tara Stoll, Site Manager

Originally from the Midwest, Tara has a background in communications, video production, and graphic design. Holding a master’s in K-12 Cross-Categorical Special Education, Tara enjoys helping families navigate the IEP process and effectively advocate. As Mom to Olivia, her daughter with Ds, Tara has first-hand experience within the disability community and how families are impacted.

Tara has been married to Eric for 21 years, and they have three daughters (Amelia, Olivia, & Lyla) and two dogs (Charlie & Buster). She is very excited to share her passion for advocacy with GiGi’s families.

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Kaylee Saunders, Literacy Coordinator

Kaylee is a recent graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in Human Development and Family Studies. During the Spring of her senior year, Kaylee interned at GiGi's and was able to fulfill her passion of working with individuals with disabilities. This passion was developed at an early age when she was able to go to work with her mother at a program for individuals with autism. Kaylee is excited to continue working with her friends at the Playhouse and to carry out the mission of GiGi's.

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Sara Holmes - Program Coordinator

Hello! I grew up in Atlanta and moved to Wilmington, NC to pursue my passions at UNCW. I graduated from UNCW with a degree in Recreational Therapy. I fell in love working with people with special needs when I was 14 years old and volunteered with the Special Olympics for the first time. I love recreation and doing anything I can to improve physical, social, and emotional well-being for all people at any age. In my leisure time, you will find me outside most of the time on the farm. I love spending time with my family, my rescue dog Toby, and my rescue cat Takoda. There are always adventures and projects waiting for us!