GiGi’s Playhouse opening in Deerfield

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GiGi’s Playhouse opening in Deerfield

Cheerful 18-month-old Hudson Hammond, son of Deerfield GiGi’s Playhouse Board Member Hollyce Hammond, attends GiGi’s Playhouse for its therapy, teaching of sign language, and socialization.

Cheerful 18-month-old Hudson Hammond, son of Deerfield GiGi’s Playhouse Board Member Hollyce Hammond, attends GiGi’s Playhouse for its therapy, teaching of sign language, and socialization.

Moira Duffy

Cheerful 18-month-old Hudson Hammond, son of Deerfield GiGi’s Playhouse Board Member Hollyce Hammond, attends GiGi’s Playhouse for its therapy, teaching of sign language, and socialization.

Moira Duffy

Moira Duffy

Cheerful 18-month-old Hudson Hammond, son of Deerfield GiGi’s Playhouse Board Member Hollyce Hammond, attends GiGi’s Playhouse for its therapy, teaching of sign language, and socialization.

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  A new GiGi’s Playhouse is opening in Deerfield on Nov. 18 and will provide services for children with Down Syndrome and their families at a more convenient location for Libertyville residents.

  GiGi’s Playhouse aids in the development of people with Down Syndrome from childhood through adulthood. The nonprofit provides kids with play groups, which help with social interaction, sign-language lessons, to help them learn to communicate, and tutoring.

   “[There will be] speech classes, sing-alongs, socialization, physical therapy, some hands-on classes. Lots of classes to focus on expanding what our children’s capabilities already are,” explained Julie Waltz, parent to Leilah, a child with Down Syndrome. Waltz does not currently attend a GiGi’s Playhouse due to their distance from Mundelein, where she lives. “As long as it’s close enough, we’re super excited to be able to go.”

   There are also programs that help children with Down Syndrome in the transition from high school to college. Furthermore, the organization provides services for adults with Down Syndrome to assist in their success of finding and keeping a job.

   In the past, Libertyville High School has supported GiGi’s Playhouse and their goals for the future by hosting a Color Run in the spring of 2017. Students and members of the community spent their day running/walking a 5k, getting covered in paint, and playing on a slip and slide. The profits from this event were donated to GiGi’s Playhouse and their programs.

   Two-and-a-half-year old Teddy Stock has benefited substantially from the programs provided at the GiGi’s Playhouse in Hoffman Estates. His sister Payton DeBruler, a junior and a member of the Youth Board of the GiGi’s Playhouse opening in Deerfield, stated, “[Teddy has] definitely learned more sign language, a lot of words, and how to enunciate words more. That’s helped him and we can understand him a lot [better].” (Sayre DeBruler, Payton and Teddy’s sister, is a DOI staff member.)

   Not only does Gigi’s Playhouse help children with Down Syndrome, but it also greatly impacts the families.

   Families often want to bring their children to the free services multiple times a week in order to help their child develop, however, it is not always convenient or realistic for them to drive the long distance to the nearest current GiGi’s Playhouse location.

    “It will be nice to have a larger group of friends [and] a larger community [because of the new GiGi’s Playhouse] that we can reach out to…who will understand — without any explanation — some of the things we experience,” said Waltz.

Finn Ray, a 2-year-old with Down Syndrome, currently goes to classes at a GiGi’s Playhouse location in Hoffman Estates. His mother, Elizabeth Ray, expressed she is looking forward to a shorter commute for Finn’s services at GiGi’s in Deerfield.

Moira Duffy
Finn Ray, a 2-year-old with Down Syndrome, currently goes to classes at a GiGi’s Playhouse location in Hoffman Estates. His mother, Elizabeth Ray, expressed she is looking forward to a shorter commute for Finn’s services at GiGi’s in Deerfield.

    Elizabeth Ray, a parent to Finn, a child with Down Syndrome, explained that it’s difficult for her to make the trip to Hoffman Estates because she has “four kids and Finn has between four and five therapies a week so there’s a lot of things for just one household member to try to fit in.” The new location will help their situation.

    Likewise, Payton DeBruler has difficulty finding time in her schedule to go to GiGi’s Playhouse. She currently volunteers about once a month, but once the new location opens up in Deerfield, she’s hoping to volunteer every week. As a nonprofit organization that provides free services, it operates on a volunteer basis.

       According to Hollyce Hammond, a member of the Deerfield GiGi’s Playhouse Board and parent of Hudson, an 18-month-old child with Down Syndrome, the new GiGi’s Playhouse is looking for student volunteers above the age of 13. If interested, students can contact the Deerfield location at [email protected]

“It’s so much about the simple joys in life, being grateful for every single day and finding the happiness, even in the darkness,” Hammond said. “People with Down Syndrome, they’re really good at that and typical people aren’t very good at that. We have a lot to learn from that extra chromosome.”

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