Erica Erdman, Wausau Founder/ Playhouse Manager
Erica is the driving force behind the GiGi’s Playhouse in North Central WI. Erica is a native of the area and has worked in the non-profit community serving the developmentally disabled, mentally ill, and unemployed populations for over 10 years. She received a BA in Psychology from UWSP with a focus in Human Services along with a BA in Art with an emphasis in glass…bringing creativeness to the Playhouse, events, and programming! Her passion can be seen throughout the Playhouse and she has even been the recipient of the local Jefferson Award!
Erica developed a strong sense of devotion to the advocacy needs of those in the Down syndrome community when her son, Braxton was born almost 7 years ago. Because Braxton wears his diagnosis on his face, she wanted more than just community awareness, she wanted genuine acceptance of him and felt the platform GiGi’s provided would support this shift in community perceptions of those with Down syndrome. Erica is grateful and humbled by the support provided to GiGi’s Playhouse Wausau and encourages everyone to stop in to be amazed and inspired!
Nicole Stangl, Board President
Nicole was born and raised in Wisconsin and moved to Wausau in 2020. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Politics & Government and Business Management from Ripon College and a Juris Doctorate from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. She currently works as an Associate Attorney practicing Employment Law at Ruder Ware Law Firm. Nicole is excited to be a member of GiGi’s Wausau and watch how this organization can serve the community of Wausau and encourage inclusivity and acceptance for all.
In her free time, Nicole loves to spend time outdoors with her husband and her dog and she enjoys going for runs to explore new places.
Dawn Follendorf, Board Secretary
Dawn was born and raised in Wisconsin and has been a Wausau resident since 2009. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master’s in Public Service from Marquette University. From her service as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines to serving as the Director of Wausau’s Main Street program, she has dedicated her career to community and economic development. She currently serves as the Community Reinvestment Officer of IncredibleBank. Dawn is motivated to see GiGi’s thrive in Wausau because she knows that strong communities are diverse and inclusive.
Dawn loves to spend the summer months gardening, traveling with her husband, and disc golfing with her dog. Her favorite winter activities include cooking and playing foosball.
Rebecca Bearjar, Board Treasurer
Having grown-up in Wausau, Rebecca studied in St. Petersburg, Russia and Portland, Oregon before settling in Madison, Wisconsin where she worked in web development and email marketing. She returned to the Wausau area in 2010 to join her family business. As manager of Katzenbarkers Natural Pet Food store, Rebecca is an active member of Wausau River District. In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys hiking, biking, reading and knitting.
Rebecca and her husband, Niles, are the proud parents of Katelyn (5-years-old) and Nathan (3-years-old). Following a traumatic birth, Nathan was diagnosed with Trisomy 21, one of three variations of Down's syndrome. Rebecca is grateful for the support and friendship provided by other local parents of children with Down syndrome and she enjoys giving back to the community as a board member of GiGi’s Playhouse Wausau.
Cory Durbin, Board Member
Cory is an Early Childhood Special Education teacher with the Wausau School District where she has been employed since 2016. Prior to this, she was a service coordinator with the North Central Health Care Birth-to-Three program for 11 years. She was also previously a camp counselor for 4 summers at Elk’s Camp Grassick in Dawson, ND working with children and adults with special needs. Throughout these experiences, her knowledge and passion for working with individuals with special needs, Down syndrome in particular, has grown.
She received her bachelor’s degree in communication disorders from Minnesota State University, Mankato; and a master’s degree in early childhood special education from Minnesota State University, Moorhead
Cory resides in Merrill, WI with her husband, John, and 3 children: Gabriel-13, Caroline-10, and Sylvia-7. As a family they enjoy camping, spending time with extended family, enjoying nature, taking family vacations, having movie and game nights, and are actively involvement in Boy Scouts.
Leslie Keeffe, Board Member
Wausau has been Leslie’s home for most of her life. She attended the University of Wisconsin Madison earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and then a few years later earned a degree in Physical Therapy, also from UW Madison. Leslie’s professional experiences include teaching at a Montessori school for several years before starting a 20-year career as a physical therapist, serving for a majority of that time as the Birth to Three therapist for Marathon, Lincoln and Langlade Counties. In her career she has gained experience in aquatic therapy, ergonomics, and school- based therapy.
In her free time, Leslie enjoys spending time with her family and rescue animals, hiking, zip lining and enjoying a good movie. She is very excited to be a part of GiGi's and looking forward to giving back to the Wausau area community through GiGi’s Playhouse.
Jaci McKamey, Literacy Coordinator
Jaci McKamey was born in Mosinee, WI and has been a Speech Language Pathologist for theWausau School District since 2015. She received her bachelor’s degree (2010) and master’sdegree (2012) in communication sciences and disorders from the University of Wisconsin- EauClaire. After graduation, she worked at the Mount Horeb Intermediate Center (grades 3-5) forthree years.Jaci enjoys spending time with her husband, Mark, and sons, Milo and Elliott. Some of herfavorite things are vanilla lattes, camping, traveling, reading for fun, and trying new restaurants.She is excited to be joining the GiGi’s Playhouse of Wausau team and looks forward to helpingcreate amazing opportunities for children with Down syndrome in the Greater Wausaucommunity.
Megan Huerth, New Parent Coordinator
Megan has been a local resident of the area most of her life, growing up in Rothschild and now living in Weston. She attended University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, where she earned her bachelor’s degrees in both Psychology and Human Development. After graduation, Megan was given an opportunity to analyze business data, instead of people as she originally intended, and she’s never turned back. Her family, consisting of her husband (Clayton), daughter (Adalyn), and son (Corbyn), enjoys exploring the outdoors, cheering on their favorite Wisconsin-based sports teams, and spending time with their families.
Megan learned firsthand about GiGi’s Playhouse after her son was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after his birth. She looks forward to spreading awareness with all that GiGi’s Playhouse has to offer our community, as well as connecting with parents who are experiencing a similar emotional rollercoaster that follows a Down syndrome diagnosis.
Alison Vlietstra, Board Member
Alison was born and raised in central Wisconsin. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from UW-Eau Claire and a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from UW-LaCrosse. She is currently an Occupational Therapist in the early childhood/4K programs at the DC Everest School District. Prior to that, she worked at a pediatric outpatient clinic in Wausau. Alison is passionate about working with children with special needs – it is the greatest gift to help children lead meaningful and successful lives! Alison is thrilled to see the Wausau community come together to open a GiGi’s Playhouse -- the programming options, connections, and family resources will truly make an impact on so many individuals throughout Central Wisconsin.
Alison resides in Birnamwood, WI with her husband. In her free time she enjoys being with her family, traveling, fishing, gardening, and crafting. She is so excited to be a member of the GiGi’s Wausau team and looks forward to this much needed staple in the community for years to come!
Louise Wolf, Board Member/New Family Coordinator
Louise was born and raised in Wausau. After receiving her BS Degree in Elementary and Special Education from UW-Eau Claire and MS Degree in Behavior from UW-Stevens Point, Louise taught Special Education throughout Marathon County Special Education and Wausau Public Schools for 40 years.
Louise has previous board experience with United Cerebral Palsy, Aspirus Festival of Trees, Wausau Soccer and The Charity Party of Wausau. She has also volunteered with the Neighbors Place, Wisconsin Special Olympics, Newman Catholic Schools and her parish. Louise has been happily married for 34 years to Kevin, who is an Attorney at Ruder Ware in Wausau. They have two sons, Josh (Gina) and Jacob (Hannah) as well as four adorable grandchildren, Josie, Elsie, Louis and Hugh.
Louise retired from teaching children with special needs in June of 2020 and in her spare time enjoys any activity with family or going up North to their cottage. Other interests include, anything family (especially the grandkids,) friends, reading, walking, biking, pontooning, crewel embroidery, cross stitching, puzzles, snowshoeing, traveling, and keeping in touch with previous students and their families.
Melissa Baldwin- Self Advocacy Ambassador
Missy was born and raised in Minocqua WI. She graduated from Lakeland Union High school in 2012. Then studied Business Education at Edgewood College. She received a 2-year certification with the cutting edge program in Madison WI. She moved to Wausau WI in 2018. She volunteers at Marathon County literacy program and North Central Health care. In her free time, Missy enjoys spending time with her family and friends, camping, participating in Special Olympics, traveling and loves country music.
Michael Kuklinski, MD, Board Member
Michael was born and raised in the Fox Valley and is “annoyingly proud” of being a Wisconsinite. At an young age Michael knew he wanted to work with kids for a career and became set on going to medical school after shadowing a pediatrician. He currently works at Aspirus Wausau Hospital in the specialty of Neonatology – Perinatology Medicine. Michael is excited to be involved in GiGi’s because he feels having a physician with a background in pediatrics would fill a much-needed role on the Board and he has many ideas for outreach to local providers. Michael also is the father to Thomas, who was diagnosed with Autism in 2020 and who is welcomed to the Playhouse because of GiGi’s policy of “Acceptance for All”!
Michael has two other children, Madeleine and Genevieve, and a wonderful wife, Keri who is involved in the Playhouse. In his free time, Michael enjoys running and biking, paddleboarding and cross country skiing. He is also a big movie buff, a fan of wood working, and listening to books on tape.