Gigi's Playhouse for people with Down syndrome

August 21, 2008 10:43:08 AM PDT
Five years ago, a northwest suburban mother of a young child with Down syndrome created a special playhouse for her daughter and friends. They recently opened their fourth location, which has become a popular hangout for families and children with Down syndrome. The newest Gigi's Playhouse is located on the North Side of Chicago. Children are not the only ones benefitting from the playhouse. Parents, professional and volunteers are also benefitting.

People come to Gigi's for many different reasons, says executive director Jenni Vontobel.

"We have programs and activities for all ages, and starting with prenatal diagnosis all the way through our adult group"," said Vontobel.

They offer developmental, educational and reading programs at no cost and they also have multicultural activities.

"We have a Hispanic group called Nuestros Angels and a Polish speaking group, and those groups are huge," said Vontobel.

Anthony Miller's 20-month-old daughter Gabby comes to Gigi's for their crawler group.

"But when she turns 3 she'll be here for the reading program and some of the other programs as well," Miller said.

Until last month, Chicago families were traveling to Gigi's Playhouse in Hoffman Estates. Now, with this beautiful space, they don't have to travel far.

Heidi Aldama, mother of Veronica, is one of the people involved in bringing Gigi's to Chicago.

"It was a no-brainier for me. I mean, right away I was so happy to do it, because the strength that I have found at the playhouse and the knowledge that I have gained, that my daughter has absolutely no limits," said Aldama.

"People just come to us, and they love what they get out of Gigi's playhouse, and they want to open them where they are," said Vontobel.

They are talking about opening a South Side Gigi's Playhouse.

To learn more about Gigi's Playhouse, locations and schedule of activities go to www.gigisplayhouse.org.


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