Volunteer & Resource Spotlight

Meet Annika, a volunteer changing the way the world views Down syndrome

Passion comes in all forms and can be demonstrated in so many ways. Our amazing volunteer Annika surly encompasses every last once of the word, showing others the true meaning of Acceptance for All. We are so incredibly proud and honored that she found GiGi’s Playhouse San Diego and is now sharing her gifts with the entire GiGi’s family network and beyond!

Annika came to GiGi’s Playhouse San Diego in October 2023 and in that short of time quickly became emersed in everything GiGi’s. We quickly found out that behind her passion and mission was a heart connection, her brother who just happened to have Down syndrome.

We asked Annika to share a bit more about her journey and this was what she had to say:

How did you find out about GiGi’s?

I first found out about GiGi’s when I moved to California and was looking for a way to stay involved in the Down syndrome community as I finished OT school. Having grown up with a little brother with Down syndrome and worked at the Special Olympics for many years, I wanted to stay active in pursuing time with individuals with Down syndrome, When I googled Down syndrome organizations in San Diego, GiGi’s was one of the options, and I knew I wanted to be a part of the group because, although Oklahoma (where I grew up) didn’t have any GiGi’s, I had heard about them before. 

What made you want to volunteer at GiGi’s?

I decided that I wanted my doctoral work for my degree to be focused on improving the quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome in some capacity, and I realized that GiGi’s was the perfect place to do so. 

What has been a highlight?

The highlight of my time at GiGi’s Playhouse has been the friendships I have formed with the other volunteers and participants. Over time, we form little inside jokes and amazing memories through learning new skills, meeting new people, and lots of laughs and hugs. 

What do you think could be improved or something we could benefit from?

GiGi’s Playhouse is such an indescribable positive force for good, but many people aren’t fully aware of that and all that GiGi’s has to offer. I wish there was a way for more people to learn about programming and volunteer opportunities offered by GiGi’s. 

What would you like other volunteers to know? families to know?

The volunteer experience with GiGi’s is one in which you learn so much about yourself and get to form meaningful relationships with people of all ages and backgrounds. Like any experience, you get what you put into it and then a bit more because it is such a loving and amazing community of people. The programs help many people with Down syndrome while also providing a safe space for their families and other volunteers to learn and grow. Walking into a GiGi’s Playhouse is a surefire way to end up with a smile on your face.

Anything else you would like to share?

With much appreciation for and inspired by the amazing time I have had at GiGi’s so far, I created a resource notalwayshappy.org that has mental health and wellness tips and resources specifically for individuals with Down syndrome and their loved ones/caregivers. GiGi’s Playhouse creates a safe and wonderful place for individuals with Down syndrome and their loved ones that can contribute to improved mental health and wellness. 

As you can see Annika is such an asset to not only GiGi’s but to the entire Down syndrome community and we cannot wait for what next she brings to the table!

If you are interested in volunteering with GiGi’s Playhouse be sure to click the link:

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