Walking into GiGi’s Playhouse Cincinnati is more than just walking into another nonprofit—it’s opening up a door to a whole new world, a place where everyone is welcome. As soon as you enter the Playhouse, it’s impossible not to notice the joy and love infused into every little detail. From bright colors bound to bring a smile to every child’s face, to each mindfully created space, GiGi’s Playhouse Cincinnati has created a warm, safe environment for all of its individuals.
Established more than 20 years ago by founder Nancy Gianni, GiGi’s Playhouse is a network of Down syndrome achievement centers dedicated to changing the way the world thinks about Down syndrome, creating acceptance for all, and providing life-changing, free programming for individuals living with Down syndrome. “Twenty years ago there weren’t as many resources for those with living with this condition,” team member and board secretary Ann Poirier points out. In fact, back when Nancy’s own daughter GiGi was diagnosed with Down syndrome, the family wondered why there weren’t more places for families and people impacted by it.
Now, with its grand opening back in late September, the brand-new GiGi’s Playhouse Cincinnati is the 56th Playhouse to open in the United States, with programming available virtually in 80 countries. And it’s right here in Loveland. “We didn’t feel like there were many resources in this area, and we also felt like Loveland was central to a lot of local people who have a child with Down syndrome,” Ann says.
With an estimated 3,000 people living with Down syndrome throughout Cincinnati, the Playhouse is a welcome addition to the community. “We have four programs right now—currently one for each age group,” says site manager Elizabeth Hardesty. From early learners all the way up to adults, each class is designed to teach important skills and build confidence in a community setting.
“In the next few months,” Elizabeth adds, “as we get more volunteers and get the word out, we’re hoping to start adding more in-person programs—right now we now offer a lot of virtual programming.” So if you can’t make it to the Playhouse but still want the enrichment and instruction, it’s available. And all of these programs and classes? They’re free. This center is 99% volunteer-run, allowing these amazing education opportunities to be offered at no charge for the entire Down syndrome community.
And while programming and play make up the foundation of GiGi’s Playhouse Cincinnati, they offer plenty more events and fundraising activities. “We’ll be having a Christmas Party with Santa here!” Elizabeth smiles, her enthusiasm for planning for these kiddos to meet Santa is infectious.
It’s no surprise, GiGi’s Playhouse Cincinnati has a place for everyone touched by Down syndrome—whether you’ve received a prenatal diagnosis that your child will have Down syndrome, or have a family member living with this condition. Even if you’d just like to learn more or reach out with compassion through volunteer work in your community—the Playhouse encourages everyone to come for a tour or explore their programs in person. “Our mission is acceptance,” Elizabeth promises. “We all deserve to be accepted.”
GiGisPlayhouse.org/Cincinnati | 732 Middleton Way, Suite 200 | 513.583.7529
Our daughter with Down syndrome has taught me so much, and I look at the world and people differently. And being a part of the Playhouse is so cool, it’s just truly life-changing.
– Ann Poirier