As the year comes an end, I reflect on the many amazing things that have happened and the relationships created. This year has been one of tremendous growth and notable achievements for GiGi’s. Fulfilling our vision for change and acceptance in North Central WI was not always a straight path – we certainty had our bumps and significant changes to work with along the way. But wow, what amazing support!  The response from you, our families and volunteers, and those who have invested in the magic that is GiGi’s has been incredibly humbling and inspiring.  I’m deeply grateful for each one of you, who shared my passion and dedication in bringing GiGi’s to fruition.

This year, we have had the chance to generate relationships with several individuals and organizations all believing in GiGi’s.  The planning and events designed to bring awareness to our community were challenging yet incredibly fulfilling and – fun!  How lucky we are to partner with like-minded, enthusiastic individuals and be given the chance to change the way the world views a Down syndrome diagnosis and send a global message of acceptance for all.

It is impossible to thank everyone, but I do want to recognize some truly amazing individuals that were vital in getting GiGi’s were we are today. Your start-up committee included Kris Lang Schirmacher, Karen Apfelbeck, Cory Durbin, Michelle Wanta, Dawn Darr, Julie Johnson, Ally Peters, Rebecca Bearjar, Jennifer Rusch, Anna Borchardt and Chelsea Dombrowski.  Their passion for GiGi’s, through long hours, with much dedication and concern, seeking to bring a place to learn and grow, a place of acceptance, a commitment to our loved ones with Down syndrome is something to be proud of and needs to be acknowledged. It was an honor to work with you, to be challenged, and to envision with you what our families can have in this community.  There were two business leaders, Kent Olson and Matt Wendland that were influential in our biggest fundraiser of the year.  Thier business sense and many connections allowed us to set a foundation of fundraising and to think even bigger for next year.  There is Lange Machine and Tool, which I am a bit bias with as they are my neighbors but also wonderful supporters of Braxton and GiGi’s. There are the two largest financial investors, B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation and Connexus Cares, created a financial footing for us to be able to focus on a future fundraising plan for sustainability.  Again, there is no way to thank everyone but the most important and biggest Thank You goes to my two boys, Carl and Braxton. Carl’s love is like no other and his support of me being able to stay home to care for Braxton is a true sacrifice.  The way he looks at Braxton with admiration and wonder and a little of “what can we wreck today” makes me feel extremely blessed.  Braxton is the reason I started this amazing journey, his strength is beyond measure, and I love him more with every day that passes.  Keep dancing like no one is watching little man!

The new year for many, naturally, brings changes and big decisions, GiGi’s will be no different. In closing, on behalf of all of us at GiGi’s Playhouse, I am excited to announce our 2020, “A New Year & New Home.” January we will share specifics on our “home” and how you can be part of something life changing for so many.  In January we will hold our first Volunteer Orientation and start training to offer purposeful programming to the community.  In January, we will host our first Pathways Project session, in which you can share your diagnosis story and bring change within the medical community.  And then there is our Grand Opening!

Things are happening in North Central WI and I wish every one of you a 2020 filled with magic and belief.

Erica

GiGi’s Playhouse Wausau Founder

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