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Our Team

Karen Carlson, Executive Director

Serving as the Executive Director of GiGi’s Playhouse Rockford, I now know what it means to be part of a place that lives its mission out loud!

The first time I stepped into the Playhouse, the logo tag line that reads “educate. inspire. believe.” came to life and took on new meaning. I have a background in psychology and close to three decades of professional experience in Rockford’s social service community, but I didn’t need any of that to be able to see and feel immediately that GiGi’s is a place that makes a difference every day in the lives of the individuals and families it serves.

It’s truly an honor to be part of a team that stands at the forefront of changing the world’s perception of children and adults with Down syndrome. If you haven’t seen “the magic” up close, we encourage you to stop in … whether you’re an interested community member, enthusiastic volunteer or new family to our playhouse, be prepared to open your mind and heart to those with Down syndrome and GiGi’s Playhouse Rockford!!! Feel free to reach out to me at kcarlson@gigisplayhouse.org or (815) 654-7529, ext. 211.

stacy

Stacey Bonetti, Administrative Assistant

I am a Rockford native who has a background in Administrative work. I answered an ad for Administrative help here at GiGi’s, not knowing much about Down syndrome. I have now been here since January of 2013, and my administrative duties pale in comparison with the interactions I have with the many participants of the various programs. I truly believe everything happens for a reason, and I was meant to be here…not as much for my help to run GiGi’s office, but to learn about people with disabilities and what a wonderful addition they are to our community! These people are warm, caring and wonderful and I am proud to call them my friends. GiGi’s Playhouse has given me much more than I have given it, but I believe it is a wonderful partnership between us. I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have and I can be reached at sbonetti@gigisplayhouse.org or by calling the playhouse at 815.654.7529.

Erin Kramar, Education Coordinator

I am so blessed to be a part of GiGi's Playhouse. I came to GiGi's as the GiGi U Coordinator and have recently taken on the role of Tutoring Coordinator, as well. Everyday, I get to work with phenomenal individuals and watch their confidence grow! I love making a difference in people's lives, and that is what we do here. Working with individuals who have special needs has been my passion for the past 15 years. I was born and raised in the Rockford area, and worked for many years as a para in the Harlem School District. I love to see some of my former students at the playhouse! I have a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and Special Education. At home, I have 5 (yes, 5!) little ones. Grant (7) is the oldest and the only boy. Then there is Riley(7), Bella(5), Gabby(4), and Maggie(2). If you stop by for a visit, you may see them helping me out. It is wonderful to know that my children enjoy GiGi's as much as I do and are always ready to come visit my students. If you have questions about GiGi U or tutoring, I would be happy to answer them for you. You can reach me by email, ehickman@gigisplayhouse.org or by phone, 815-654-7529 ext. 212

Board of Directors

President 
Michael Dalke
Assistant Deputy Chief, Rockford Police Department

Vice-President
Penny Wirtjes
Founding Board Member

Treasurer 
Ellen K. Poppen, CPA, CMA
EKP Solution Source

Secretary 
Jerry Guinane
VP, SwedishAmerican Health System

 

Jeff Klarman
President,  KMK Media Group

Julie Gustafson
RN, Mercyhealth System

Fred Muehlfelder
Funeral Director, Fitzgerald Funeral Home

Ben Bernsten
President Goodwill Industries Northern Illinois

Thomas McMahon
Regional Financial Services Manager, WECSO Distribution, Inc.

Brock Morlan
Principal, Marquette Elementary School

Mike Paterson
General Manager, Mid-West Family Broadcasting

Scott Freeman
Senior Pharmaceutical Sales Manager, Amgen Inc.