Our Team

Candi Medeiros, GiGi's Playhouse Tampa Team Member

Candi Medeiros, Site Coordinator

cmedeiros@gigisplayhouse.org

Newest to the GiGi’s team is Candi Medeiros, Site Coordinator. 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 in a boarding and day school for students with learning differences. Her true passion in life is working with children and young adults and helping others. In her free time, Candi enjoys playing with her dog and cat, traveling, and spending time with family. She is extremely excited to join the GiGi’s team and spread the word about everything that GiGi’s Playhouse has to offer.

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Katie Turner, Program Coordinator

Katie Turner is a graduate of USF with a Masters in Speech Therapy. Katie has a heart for spreading acceptance and serving others. In her free time, you can find Katie curled up with a good book. Katie also enjoys all things outdoors - hiking, bike riding, going out on the boat, and more! She loves to dance (the foxtrot and salsa are her favorite), and her favorite color is purple. Katie is so excited to be a part of the GiGi's Playhouse Family, and is ready to continue the good work that has already been started: Educate. Inspire. Believe.

Literacy Coordinator: Evelyn Mazur, emazur@gigisplayhouse.org
Volunteer Coordinator: Latecie Gilghrest, lgighrest@gigisplayhouse.org
Volunteer Coordinator: Tyler Russo, trusso@gigisplayhouse.org
Outreach Committee Chair: Amanda Bucalo, abucalo@gigisplayhouse.org
Outreach Committee Co-Chair: Diana Bernal-Silva, dbernalsilva@gigisplayhouse.org

Participant Outreach Committee

Nick Altieri
Lindsey Danner
Nick Defurio
Thalia Arbelaez
Tristan Snapp
Mary Frances Smith
David Hogaboom

Sam Piazza
David Scott
Valerie Smith
Kaleb Dees
Danielle Ciaravino
Johnathan Goepper

GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa Board of Directors

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Michael Sullivan, President

msullivan@gigisplayhouse.org

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.

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Maria Balderas, Vice President

mbalderas@gigisplayhouse.org

Maria obtained an Occupational Therapy Assistant degree in 1998 and, has been working as an OT practitioner for over 22 years. . She has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and is currently pursuing a degree in Organizational Leadership from South University. 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 and travelling.

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Jessica Ventura, Secretary

Jlack@gigisplayhouse.org

Jessica joined the GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa Board in March 2018. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Canada – she moved to Tampa and began classes at the University of Tampa in August, 2006. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Sport Management in 2009 and has been working for the New York Yankees and their local Minor League teams since. Jessica has been able to bring the two together, by working with players & coaches to offer a baseball fundamentals clinic to participants of GiGi’s. The program has proven to be beneficial for both the baseball players and the participants with Down syndrome. It’s given a unique opportunity for each to make new friends and learn the game in a positive environment.  

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Jason Sizemore, Treasurer

jsizemore@gigisplayhouse.org

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.

Jody Blocker, Board Member

jblocker@gigisplayhouse.org

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.

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Michael Bucalo, Board Member

mbucalo@gigisplayhouse.org

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.

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Michelle Piniella, Board Member

mpiniella@gigisplayhouse.org

Michelle is thrilled to join the GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa Board. A Tampa native, Michelle graduated from the University of South Florida in 2005 with a Bachelors in Communications. She currently owns and operates three Clean Juice Franchise locations in the Tampa Bay area. Proud mother to Mia (8), Ava (7), and Samuel (6 months). In May of 2018 Michelle and her husband Derek gave birth to their son, Louis John (LJ) Piniella. LJ had Down syndrome and passed away at birth due to a heart defect associated with DS. Being on the board at GiGi’s means so much to Michelle and her family. “I couldn’t think of a better way to honor my son.” - Michelle Piniella

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Gabriela Rosello, Board Member

grosello@gigisplayhouse.org

Gabriela Rosello and Synthia Fairman are the owners of Doublemint Sitting which was established in 2016. Doublemint Sitting is the number one referral based babysitting and pet sitting service across the state of Florida. They provide services to all families but specialize with adults and children with specials needs. 

After working at a foster home in 2013 they realized their love for nonprofits and helping the community. They began volunteering within the special needs community in 2016 and were introduced to the idea of GiGi’s Playhouse shortly after. They knew right away they had to become part of this organization and joined the GiGi’s board in early 2020. 

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Robyn Tourlakis, Board Member

Robyn Tourlakis is excited to join the GiGi’s Board. Robyn 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. Robyn grew up in Southwest Florida and after completing her education in 2003 returned to Florida. Robyn learned of GiGi’s Playhouse when her best friend’s daughter, Sophia, was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Robyn’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, Robyn has worked with a quality assurance organization in Florida to assure quality Medicaid Waiver services. Robyn 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.