Down Syndrome Nonprofit GiGi's Playhouse to Open Cincinnati Location

GiGi's Playhouse, a national organization that provides families with programs and resources about Down syndrome, is coming to Cincinnati — but they need your help.

click to enlarge Ella Pocisk & Alice Poirier from a GiGi's Playhouse Meet & Greet event prior to the pandemic
Ella Pocisk & Alice Poirier from a GiGi's Playhouse Meet & Greet event prior to the pandemic

GiGi’s Playhouse, a national organization that provides families and community members programs and resources about Down syndrome is coming to Cincinnati.

This will be the 52nd GiGi’s Playhouse opening in the U.S., and Amy Pennington, the lead of GiGi’s Cincinnati start-up team, says the presence is much needed.

“There's free speech therapy, one-on-one literacy and math tutoring, educational resources; I mean there’s a whole ballgame of programming that just was not available, especially for individuals with Down syndrome,” Pennington tells CityBeat.

Apart from offering free therapies and resources, Pennington also says the fact that GiGi’s is a national network means even more innovation, connection and ideas. She says the organization was one of the first to develop an online at-home program during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The GiGi’s Playhouse website notes that GiGi’s At Home was launched only 10 days after all the organization’s locations in the U.S. and Mexico were forced to shut down.

GiGi’s Playhouse also has continued to grow its range of programs for different age groups, attracting even more people and families to the organization’s resources. 

“We're now being able to reach out to other areas and other age groups so more people are hearing about us,” Pennington says.

Pennington expects the Cincinnati location will serve about 100 families right off the bat, and build up to about 400 or 500 families over time. She says there is already anticipation for the center to open.

“There are about 70 families in the area that are have already connected with us and are waiting for us to open our doors,” she says. “So it's obviously a need.”

Pennington says, above all, GiGi’s presence will help the organization’s mission of changing how the world views Down syndrome and promote acceptance of all people. 

“One of the cool things about GiGi’s Playhouse is that when you walk in there, any of those things that people would maybe discriminate against or feel funny about on the outside seem to disappear,” Pennington says. “As soon as you walk in those doors, it's just like this total acceptance.”

The GiGi’s Playhouse donation webpage says that the nonprofit has a $250,000 donation goal that will be used to open and sustain the Cincinnati location, keeping all programs free for those who use them. 

To raise money, GiGi’s Playhouse will be holding a Brew Haha comedy event at Oasis Golf Club in Loveland on March 27.

The event will feature comedian Rob Snow along with the improv group he created and directs, The Improvaneers. The Improvaneer Method is a part of Snow’s organization Stand-Up for Downs and is a comedy troupe of people with Down syndrome. According to the nonprofit’s website, Snow founded Stand-Up for Downs with his wife in 2013 to use their experience as parents of children with Down syndrome and comedy to enhance the lives of people with Down syndrome. The event starts at 6 p.m. and will include drinks, food, a raffle, silent auctions, fund-a-cause and lots of laughs. Tickets can be purchased online.

Aside from Brew Haha, there are more fundraisers on the horizon plenty of opportunities to help GiGi’s Playhouse listed on the nonprofit’s website. 

The Cincinnati GiGi’s Playhouse launch team is comprised of 10 people. According to Pennington, GiGi’s Playhouse is 99% volunteer-ran, so the business model depends on fundraising and donations. 

“All the money you donate really ends up going back into the resources to take care of the community that you know that you're putting your money to,” she says. 

For more info, visit gigisplayhouse.org/cincinnati.