Wednesday, January 24, 2007

World of Good, Gigi's Playhouse Style

Unbelievable. That's the only word I can use to describe what I came across while looking for this week's World of Good (WOG). As I read what this group does I marvelled at the beauty and, well, the holiness of the thing.

Gigi's Playhouse is a chain of educational centers for children with Down Syndrome. They are a not-for-profit organization staffed with full-time experts and part-time volunteers catering to the needs of children with this genetic disorder. Down Syndrome is a mismatch in chromosomes that occurs at conception. WebMD tells us the following.

Many children with Down syndrome have noticeable features, such as a flat face with small ears and mouth. Most young children have weak muscles (hypotonia), which generally improves by late childhood.

Below-average intelligence and physical problems often result in developmental disabilities. A child with Down syndrome may also be born with heart, intestinal, or ear and respiratory defects. These health conditions often lead to other problems, such as respiratory infections or difficulty hearing.
When I've seen parents with children that have Down Syndrome, I've always respected their courage at facing a lifetime of caring for a child that will always have extra needs. Gigi's Playhouse was designed to make their lives easier.

Who knew they had Moby Dick as a pop up book?

(They) offer activities, resources, educational programs and support for individuals with Down syndrome, their families, and the community.

(At) GiGi's Playhouse (they) celebrate the lives and showcase the talents and potential of individuals with Down syndrome. This builds the individual's self-esteem and confidence as well as that of the parents.
Essentially, Gigi's Playhouse is a central collection point for all manner of resources for families dealing with Down Syndrome. They have literacy programs, playful activities, education for parents, guest speakers, and a social support network for parents and family members.

Smile! It's the paparazzi!

The biographies of their volunteers tell stories familiar to parents with Down Syndrome children. Here are some excerpts.

20 minutes after GiGi was born the doctors came into my room and told us she had Down syndrome. I can not even begin to tell you the total fear and devastation I felt...When my husband, Tom, and I found out our daughter Talia was born with Down syndrome and congenital heart defects, we were lost and did not know who to turn to for help, guidance,or simple words of encouragement...People looked at us as if we had drawn the short straw or been dealt a tough card.
At Gigi's Playhouse, Down Syndrome doesn't make you an outcast, it makes you part of the family.

Relax. You're among friends.

Does it work?
"“I watched as one of our children, who is doubly enhanced with DS AND autism...FLY around that place...touching, smiling, being SO busy...and LOVING every second of it...and was just totally blown away.THANK YOU ..THANK YOU...THANK YOU...not just for our day.....but for what you do!”--Email from a first time GiGi’s visitor

No caption necessary.

Gigi's Playhouse has been featured on local newscasts, particularly and at least one of the videos is still available on the web. Go take a look, it will make you smile.

To learn more about Gigi's Playhouse, visit their website.

For more about the World of Good and links to our list of more than twenty WOGs go to this post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, KT! Those children are truly a blessing from God. And to think that there is a big push to make it mandatory for Downs testing of ALL pregnant mothers in the US--of course with the intent of increasing the numbers of abortions of these children, or putting extra pressure on mothers who want to keep their babies, no matter what. Organizations like this one help to show the world that these children are treasures and should be cherished and treated with the dignity that their human lives deserve. May God bless them all. Thank you for this WOG.