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Our Team


Karen Falk, President

Karen lives in San Diego with her husband and three young children. Her youngest daughter, Lindsey, has Down syndrome. Karen has worked as a civil engineer in the water resources industry for over 15 years and has past experience volunteering on a non-profit Board. She is very excited about all of the wonderful programs and opportunities that GiGi’s Playhouse San Diego will offer her daughter and all individuals with Down syndrome in Southern California.


Robyn Smith, Vice President

Robyn lives in Poway with her husband and 4-year old twins.  One of her twins was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after their birth and she quickly learned that her son could still have a promising future but he needed some extra help along the way. As a general education teacher, she has taught kindergarten and 2nd graders of varying abilities by adapting curriculum with flexible, engaging activities and focusing on helping each student develop their own love of learning. Robyn is grateful for the opportunity to serve as Vice President to help provide the best resources for individuals with Down syndrome and a place for families to connect.


Nicole Pascarella Palomino, Secretary

Nicole lives in San Diego with her husband and 3 year old daughter with Down syndrome.  As a project manager for 15 years, she has used her experience to help get the first Gigi’s Playhouse in California open and serve as Board Secretary.


Robert Bacsik, Treasurer

Robert lives in San Diego with his wife and 3 year old daughter who has Down syndrome.  He has worked in the accounting industry for 9 years, working for a small firm, his own firm, and most recently as the treasurer for a non-profit respite agency in San Diego county.  Robert looks forward to ensuring Gigi's Playhouse maintains its financial resources in a manner that will allow long term growth and sustainability.


Stephanie Rais Ortiz, Marketing and Outreach Committee Lead

Stephanie resides in San Diego along with her husband Chris and daughter Annette. She worked in the advertising industry for numerous years and currently works as a business consultant for a diverse group of clients. She is very excited to be a part of Gigi’s Playhouse San Diego and she strongly believes it's a great environment for her daughter and others with Down syndrome to be in. It’s a place where confidence is built, skills are gained and friends are made.


Elizabeth Camp, Programs Lead

Elizabeth lives in San Diego with her husband, Lewis, and her two daughters, Julia and Katherine.  Katherine, her younger daughter, has Down syndrome.  Katherine has an enthusiasm and joy for life that inspires everyone she comes in contact with.  This has inspired Elizabeth to become involved with GiGi's Playhouse.  Elizabeth is a middle school teacher with over 25 years of experience and is excited about bringing her experience as an educator to GiGi's playhouse as well as learning new ways to help others, especially those with Down syndrome, to be successful.

Mary King, Events Committee Lead

Mary was motivated to come to GiGi’s Playhouse by the idea of offering support to families new to a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Her son Nate was diagnosed at birth and she wanted to share her experience so that they might understand what an incredible blessing Down syndrome is! In total, Mary has 3 young sons and is married to a Marine stationed in San Diego, where they live. She brings over 17 years of event planning experience to the board and enjoys lending those talents to contribute to the success of our young playhouse!