Candi Medeiros, Site Manager
Candi is a native Floridian and moved to the Tampa Bay Area in May 2019. She earned a B.S. from the University of South Florida in Business Administration and Management and an M.B.A. with minors in management and marketing from Florida International University. Candi joins GiGi’s Playhouse with nine years of experience working as the Director of Admissions at a boarding and day school for students with learning differences. Her true passion in life is working with children and adults with unique abilities and helping others. In her free time, Candi enjoys playing with her dog and cat, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. She is extremely excited to be a part of the GiGi’s Team and spread the word about everything that GiGi’s Playhouse has to offer.
SerToria "Tori" Windon-Johnson, Program Coordinator
SerToria is a master trained educator. Her background is in Exceptionality Education, ranging from Down syndrome to giftedness. She holds a Masters in SpEd Learning Disabilities and Emotional Behavior Disturbances. She has taught for ten years and mentored for six years. When she is not helping children and their families, she enjoys being a wife and mother. She collects and creates in 1/6th scale miniature. SerToria is also a member of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc. She currently sits on several planning committees and is the Chapter Advisor for the newly established Alpha Upsilon Colony at Florida International University in Miami, FL.
Participant Outreach Committee
Mary Frances Smith
GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa Board of Directors
Michael Sullivan, President
Michael Sullivan is a manager at ICI Homes, a custom home builder in Florida. He joined the home-building industry after a long career in education and educational leadership. Michael’s formal education includes a Master’s in Education Leadership from Manhattan College, a Master’s of Divinity in Theology from Saint Joseph Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from St. John’s University. Michael and his family are members of St. Timothy Catholic Church. Michael first learned of GiGi’s Playhouse when he received the prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis for his daughter, Sophia. Since then Michael and his wife, Suzanne, have enjoyed attending programs at GiGi’s playhouse with Sophia. He has experienced the way the programs at GiGi’s have affected her development and is grateful that we have this resource in Tampa. Michael is committed to raising awareness of GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa so generations of individuals with Down syndrome can benefit from its services.
Maria Balderas, Vice President
Maria obtained an Occupational Therapy Assistant degree in 1998 and, has been working as an OT practitioner for over 24 years. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership. Her experience includes working as an O.T. practitioner in geriatrics, pediatrics, home health, acute rehabilitation, hand therapy, outpatient rehabilitation and management for 10 years. She currently works as a professor and Academic Fieldwork Coordinator for the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at South University, Tampa. Maria has established programming at GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa to have her students involved in providing O.T. services for participants of all ages at our Tampa location. She has been involved with GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa since early 2018, during the construction phase and is involved in the culinary program as a regular volunteer. She enjoys cooking, time with friends and family, interior design and traveling.
Robin Tourlakis, Secretary
Robin Tourlakis is excited to join the GiGi’s Board. Robin earned a BSBA from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, as well as her MHA from UNC-Charlotte, North Carolina and a nonprofit certificate from Duke University. Robin grew up in Southwest Florida and after completing her education in 2003 returned to Florida. Robin learned of GiGi’s Playhouse when her best friend’s daughter, Sophia, was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Robin’s experience has been as a Supported Living and Employment Coach for people with I/DD and advocating as a waiver support coordinator. For the last 14 years, Robin has worked with a quality assurance organization in Florida to assure quality Medicaid Waiver services. Robin was drawn to GiGi’s due to their core values of acceptance and inclusion and how the Playhouse was structured to include outreach and advocacy. In her free time she spends time with her husband and son.
Jason Sizemore, Treasurer
Jason Sizemore is Manager of Cyber Security Operations Center at TECO Services, an Emera Company. Jason has an extensive background in regulatory compliance, information technology, risk management and information security. Jason is responsible for security, confidentiality and integrity of company data for all TECO affiliates. Jason holds a Master of Business Administration from Saint Leo University and two Bachelor of Science degrees in Management Information Systems and Economics from University of South Florida.
Jason believes in giving back to the community, especially when geared towards children with special needs; abandoned, abused or orphaned children; and struggling families. Jason lives in the Tampa Bay area with his wife and three children.
Nick Altieri, Board Member
Nick has been a participant of GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa since it opened in 2018 and was also a member of the start-up team. Nick enjoys helping with the Fantastic Friends program and being with his friends. He is also a member of the Participant Outreach Committee and regularly advocates for individuals with Down syndrome while spreading the word about GiGi’s Playhouse. He is currently employed at the Julianne M. Holt Hillsborough County Public Defender Office and has been for almost 10 years. He also works part-time at Clean Juice. Nick’s goal is to help families who have children with disabilities including Down syndrome. He would like to be a mentor, example, and a role model for the younger generation and especially children with disabilities and Down syndrome.
Jody Blocker, Board Member
Jody Blocker retired from banking in 2011 after a 28-year career working through multiple bank mergers. Along with her daily duties, she took on the job of mentoring and training new employees during their on the job rotation period. When her son started school she became a regular fixture in school. Volunteering for 21 years in the elementary schools and consecutively doing 3 years at the middle school level. She held the position of PTA Treasurer for 7 of those 21 years. You could find her every Wednesday working in the library and reading to the students in their classrooms. Jody coordinated the Reading Is Fundamental program (RIF), Box Tops For Education and the Reading First program sponsored by her bank. In 2013 Jody was awarded the SERVE volunteer of the year award for both Hillsborough County and the State of Florida. After retiring Jody was diagnosed with breast cancer and spent the first year of retirement going through treatments and still found time to volunteer at the school. When a friend who has a little girl with Down syndrome mentioned she was working on opening a GiGi’s Playhouse here in Tampa Jody jump right in and asked what she could do to help. Jody was the Finance Lead during our start up years and the year our Playhouse opened Jody joined the Board as the Treasurer.
Michael Bucalo, Board Member
Michael Bucalo is a Merrit Island native who has called Tampa home for nearly 15 years. He attended the University of Florida and Santa Fe College earning a degree in Construction Management. Currently a partner and Vice President of Friedrich Watkins Tampa, he has been involved in the design and build of many Bay Area staple projects at The Straz, USF, University of Tampa, The Florida Aquarium, Amalie Arena, Zoo Tampa and Busch Gardens.
Michael is an avid hockey player and fan. He has a passion for volunteer work and advocating, and is a member of the University Of Tampa Board Of Counselors and a founding chair person with the American Cancer Society Associate Board of Ambassadors. Michael discovered GiGi’s Playhouse while researching programs for his newborn son Mason who has Down syndrome and immediately reached out to get involved in the playhouse.
He resides in Wesley Chapel with his wife, sons Mason and Merrit and two dogs.
Christos Nicolaou, Board Member
Christos possesses 40+ years of diversified experience in business process improvements, strategic planning, operational excellence, and project management within the Aerospace and Defense industry. During his career, he was recognized as an unwavering change agent, a dedicated educator and a passionate mentor. He earned a B.S. degree in Industrial Systems Engineering from the University of South Florida and has been a Professor of Practice at USF’s College of Engineering since 2006. Christos and his wife Deloris are members of Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa where he served as the President of the Parish Council and as a Board member of its Elementary School.
His 4-year old grandson Lukas has Down syndrome and, at an infant age, had to undergo a surgery to correct a heart defect associated with DS. Lukas loves coming to GiGi’s Playhouse!
“Lukas is our true inspiration! It is my honor and pleasure to serve on the Board of Managers.” – Christos
Sam Piazza, Board Member
Sam has been a participant of GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa since its inception in 2018 and was a member of the start-up team. Currently, he is an active member of the playhouse’s Participant Outreach Committee. He is an employee of PDQ and has worked there for more than nine years and is also a volunteer safety officer at Grace Family Church. Sam had a documentary film created about him called “Because of Sam”. He is a twenty-time Karate Medalist, two-time Trophy Champion, completed eleven belts and is a First-Degree Black Belt. Sam has received two commendations from Tampa City Council and Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, received the Model Citizen of Hillsborough County Award given by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, is a former Five Time Campaign Manager of Best Buddies International and received Champion of the Year.
Sam loves spreading the mission and the word about GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa and enjoys helping families with disabilities including Down syndrome. Sam’s goal is to be a role model for the younger generation of children that also have disabilities and Down syndrome.
Melissa Shelton, Board Member
Melissa Shelton is the Manager of Nursing Education, Research and Quality at Sarasota Memorial Health Care System in Sarasota, FL. She previously spent nearly 10 years working in academic research and teaching baccalaureate and masters nursing students. Melissa was introduced to GiGi’s Playhouse through her childhood friend, Suzanne Sullivan, and her husband, Michael (Board President), who are active with the Playhouse through program offerings for their beautiful daughter, Sophia. Melissa is a graduate of the University of South Florida where she initially completed a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She later returned to USF to study nursing and ultimately completed a PhD in Nursing Science. Melissa and her husband, Stephen, both attended college in Tampa and have spent many years living, working, and volunteering in this community. Melissa was honored to join the GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa Board of Directors in 2021.