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Buffalo Strong: GiGi's Playhouse is a place where everyone with Down syndrome can thrive

GiGi Playhouse
Posted at 2:38 PM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-21 19:09:46-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — There's a place on Kenmore Avenue in Buffalo called "GiGi's Playhouse, and it's designed specifically for kids and adults living with Down syndrome.

"Gigi's Playhouse is a Down syndrome achievement center," explained GiGi's Executive Director Emily Mondschein. "We serve people with Down syndrome from the prenatal period. We work with families all the way to adulthood. Our oldest member here is I believe 60."

GiGi's gives people living with Down Syndrome a place to call their own. It's an 8,000 square foot space designed specifically with the community in mind, and has plenty of space for programs, a gym and a kitchen. There are movement and music classes, cooking lessons, and social events like karaoke nights.

GiGi's Playhouse
GiGi's Playhouse, a Down syndrome achievement center.

Mondschein says it's the community and the volunteers who make GiGi's so special. One of them, Katie Webster, teaches the class Feelings Rock. She says at GiGi's all achievements are celebrated.

"Every family that has a child with special needs - what they want everybody to know - is that their child also has gifts. They have strengths. they have talents," Webster explained.

And when you ask adults living with Down syndrome what they'd like people to know about them - you can see just how many talents they have.

GiGi's Playhouse
GiGi's Playhouse, a Down syndrome achievement center.

"I am nice. I like to help people with Down syndrome," said Kyle Lappin.

"I like to color, I like to do bowling, basketball, dance, music," explained Mackenzie Koch.

"I'm a singer-songwriter. And it's been my dream to do that since I was born," said Faith Jaromin.

At GiGi's, everyone's gifts are celebrated, friends are made, and families are connected in a place that's created with this special community in mind.

"They spend most of their life trying to fit in, trying to meet goals, trying to get to that next place where everyone is just a little different from them. Like the world's not created for them - right? They have to stretch to be a part of things," explained Mondschein. "Here - it's created for them. We celebrate them, they are superstars."