We Did It Because She Did It!!!!!

GiGi Gianni sings National Anthem at Wrigley Field. To the right is Abby, from School of Rock in Barrington, playing the guitar.

GiGi’s Playhouse made a major league splash recently when our namesake, GiGi Gianni, sang the National Anthem at the Chicago Cubs game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Our Cubbies won, by the way!) The singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the megaphone to amplify our message of acceptance by showing ability, not disability. This magnification received attention across the United States and launched GiGi and Nancy Gianni on the national media stage with Fox & Friends Weekend in New York City! They spoke about what GiGi’s Playhouse has done in the past 19 years and what it means to the over 30,000 participants it serves. More importantly, they demonstrated and described what it takes for a person with Down syndrome, like GiGi, to get ready for moments like these. 

To truly understand the magnitude, take a moment to ponder what you would think and feel about being asked to sing the national anthem at a major sporting event, and then go on national television in front of hundreds of thousands of people to tell your story. Gulp! Considering the magnitude of that task, GiGi Gianni did it calmer and cooler than most ever could. 

GiGi Gianni and Nancy Gianni on Fox & Friends Weekend

A person with Down syndrome is afflicted with Hypotonia, a condition that causes decreased muscle tone. To imagine the challenges it presents, think of what it would be like to walk around with a 25-pound backpack or write a paper-wearing oven mitts. Talking, let alone singing, is a big challenge because it takes 71 muscles to speak and sing. An individual’s diaphragm needs to be strong to sing properly. The strength and maintenance of these muscles might be something we all take for granted, but strength is vitally important to someone with Down syndrome. Like a diabetic who needs insulin or the players who take  

GiGi Gianni practicing with Abby at School of Rock in Barrington

Wrigley Field need continual practice, training for individuals with Down syndrome is extremely important. GiGi Gianni works out six days a week to keep her muscles strong and meets with a speech and singing coach to prepare properly- doing so gives her the strength and confidence to lead on a stage of acceptance.  

Now think about a person with Down syndrome being bullied and marginalized more than most of us could even fathom. For those of us who have spent time with a person who has an intellectual disability, we find ourselves smirking with pride about what they provide us. Perspective, courage, unconditional acceptance, and love is what we gain by having them in our lives.  

Whether it’s singing at the Cubs game, being on national television, hosting a podcast or speaking to thousands of people, GiGi Gianni is a shining example of what many leaders in the Down syndrome community accomplish every day.  

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave. O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?” Brave is GiGi Gianni, as are all members of the Down syndrome community!  

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