Destined for GiGi’s Playhouse

This week are so happy to introduce Kara Belair. She grew up in Minnesota where she first became involved with GiGi’s Playhouse and fate had a plan for Kara once she moved to San Diego. She became part of the startup team and worked tirelessly to help lead our 2016 fundraiser, “Road to Opening Day” which raised over $30K!

Growing up in Minnesota

My mom was a special education teacher who worked with many different types of children that needed extra attention in my school district. Since I would ride with her to and from school, I spent a lot of time with “her kids” and always appreciated their perspective on life.

As I grew up, I began working with a wonderful (super)woman named Karen Ryan. She became a mom to a beautiful baby girl named, Violet, who also happened to have an extra chromosome. Violet would visit the office often and bring smiles to each and every person she came in contact with. Soon after meeting Violet, I learned Karen was part of the core team working tirelessly to bring a GiGi’s Playhouse to Minnesota to serve the Twin Cities area.

She shared their vision and mission, which immediately struck a chord with me, and invited me to a 5k run in support. Then, somehow, she convinced me to run a marathon (gulp!) as part of their fundraising team as a final push to open the doors to this amazing resource center. That eventually lead me to help support the annual “i have a voice” fundraiser; a truly inspirational event to be part of and reminder of why GiGi’s Playhouse is such a spectacular organization (our next “i have a voice” benefit cocktail party will be on April 29th, 2017 at Sparks Gallery).

Special Olympics

Once GiGi’s Playhouse opened, my husband and I would volunteer to spend time with the “Junior” Special Olympics team of little kids on Saturday mornings and would always leave feeling uplifted and grateful to be part of this group. Our hearts were instantly warmed walking in, seeing how full of life these kids were, socializing with their friends and showcasing their talents as young athletes. It also provided a place for their dedicated parents to come together and share experiences, helping each other learn and grow.

Moving to San Diego

When we moved to San Diego, I would bring my GiGi’s Playhouse drinking glass to my workouts and by fate, a fellow gym member approached me to tell me they were trying to open a Playhouse in San Diego. After knowing what an impact the Down Syndrome Achievement Center made in the Twin Cities, I knew I had to get involved to bring California their first playhouse – and the rest is history.

I cannot wait for San Diego to experience the invaluable benefits of GiGi’s Playhouse, from the development programs to the camaraderie and sense of community that allows both kids and adults with Down syndrome to truly flourish. Words cannot express how significant this Playhouse will be to the Down syndrome community and San Diego as a whole!

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