Volunteer of the Year- Anna Bruce
Like many families involved with GiGi’s Playhouse, Anna Bruce found GiGi’s when her son, Camden, was born with Down syndrome. She was part of a group of people in the Southern Tier, New York, who led a pop-up Playhouse idea… but after a phone call in 2017, they ultimately realized they needed a permanent location for families to use as their home base.
Anna considers herself a planner by nature, so it only felt natural to her to jump in and take the reins on some planning projects and events that came along with opening a brick-and-mortar location. By jumping in full force, she was able to see all the different levels of operations at a Playhouse. From volunteering to working with universities to having conversations as a mom of a child with Down syndrome, Anna gathers stories and perspectives to share with board members in Southern Tier.
She also felt she had a responsibility to families she knew needed these programs, so she stepped up as Board Vice President. If that weren’t enough, she also volunteered as a Program Coordinator.
Also, like many in GiGi’s organization, there are times when she feels overwhelmed like there is just too much work to do or that she has reached a breaking point. But then something happens that remotivates her to keep going and realize the impact she makes daily. “Every time that happens, I then get an email or acknowledgment that reminds me how important this is,” said Anna.
To this day, Anna struggles to find programs that will accept Camden. “They will politely tell us that they think he wouldn’t be a good fit,” said Anna. “We don’t have that problem at GiGi’s. We know we can take him there, and he will be accepted and have programs he can participate in.”
The Southern Tier location operated for the first two years solely on volunteers. It wasn’t until recently that they hired a part-time marketing employee.
Camden is now 11 years old. It might be a few years until he realizes the impact he has had on the Down syndrome community. He inspired his mom to take action on his behalf and rally a group of people together who were going through the same struggles. However, that is what all, that’s what GiGi’s is all about- a community of people coming together to support their loved ones who are often overlooked.