BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — GiGi's Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center of Buffalo is getting ready to celebrate its first World Down Syndrome Day. The celebration comes exactly one year after COVID-19 delayed its March 21st opening to August.
"So Down syndrome occurs when there are three copies of the 21st chromosome," said Board President Will Mondschein. "So every year on March 21st, or 3/21, the world gets together and celebrates individuals with Down syndrome and really tries to also raise awareness for people that may not know much about it."
Sunday's event will be tailgate style with food, live music, and giveaways. There will be three separate shifts to keep the number of guests at a time low.
The celebration comes after some time being apart. After opening in August, GiGi's Playhouse shutdown as a precaution when cases spiked in November. Mondschein said the pandemic has led to isolation for people with Down syndrome. He said canceled programs kept many adults and teens at home, while many younger children missed out on in-school therapy.
"With the younger population, my son is five, what you ended up seeing was a lot of regression in their therapies," Mondschein said. "Because my son gets multiple therapies everyday in school, and once that went virtual the onus got put back on us, and we're proud of the work that we do, but it's not quite the same."
Now that they're open again, Mondschein said GiGi's Playhouse is looking to expand its programming.
Flonnie Howard and her son Lerone have been going to GiGi's Playhouse since it opened.
“He would come here 24/7 if he could," Howard said.
Howard said one of the toughest parts of the pandemic was being confined to their home. She said their schedule before the pandemic was packed with programs. She said she's relieved that GiGi's Playhouse is open again.
“He can come and just be himself, he’s around other kids with Down syndrome and without, it’s just like they’re one, and it’s just fantastic, very good,” Howard said.
Lerone said his favorite part about going to GiGi's Playhouse is volunteering. He helps younger children, and has run the front desk.
"I love him loving this spot," Howard said. "I love it. When I first came in the whole atmosphere, the whole environment is just full of love."