Nearly half a million individuals with Down Syndrome live in the United States and not all of them have a physical place to go where they are completely accepted. Gigi’s Playhouse is a physical place where individuals with Down syndrome of all ages can participate in free therapeutic, educational and career-development programs.
CBS 17 selected GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh its 3 Degree Guarantee charity for October 2019. They opened their doors in 2016 and currently serves nearly 700 individuals with Down syndrome. This ranges from math and literacy tutoring, music, speech therapy, yoga, cooking, job training and more.
The charity was named after GiGi Gianni when her mom Nancy realized she had to change the way the world views Down syndrome. When they started in 2003 in Illinois, they wanted to send a global message of acceptance for all.
This is something Jeanhee Hoffman wishes she had when her brother, Sam, was younger. Sam has Down syndrome and is now 45 years old. He lived a much different life growing up that kids with Down syndrome today, which is part of the reason Jeanhee decided to open a GiGi’s Playhouse in the Triangle.
Several years ago, Hoffman took her brother Sam to the original GiGi’s Playhouse outside of Chicago and his life changed almost immediately. That’s when she decided to open the location here in Raleigh. It’s one of 45 playhouses in the United States. There are 450 volunteers that help keep the Playhouse running and make it completely free to those visiting.
Don’t let the name fool you, just because it’s called a playhouse doesn’t mean it’s for kids only. GiGi’s welcomes all ages. They recently help a 54-year-old man with Down Syndrome learn how to read. They also help many kids do the same. Approximately 1 in every 700 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, about 6,000 every year.
Individuals with Down syndrome are born with an extra copy of their 21st chromosome. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.
Every month CBS 17 picks a different local charity to raise money and awareness for during the daily 3-Degree Guarantee. Each day when the CBS 17 Storm Team gets the next day’s forecast correct within three degrees, CBS 17 and Allen Kelly & Company Air Conditioning & Heating donate $100 to a charity. At the end of the month, all the money raised is totaled and presented to that month’s group.
If you would like to learn more about GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh, please check out their website here.
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