GiGi’s Playhouse offers more than fun for Down syndrome families
Gigi’s Playhouse is making a difference every day in the lives of more than 30,000 individuals and families, and Insperity is proud to honor the organization as one of its 2020 Community Heroes. It is the only international network of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers created to provide free life-changing therapeutic and educational programs for all ages.
Nancy Gianni, founder and chief belief officer of GiGi’s Playhouse, said, “Our unique points of difference empower individuals and their parents to achieve their greatest potential with confidence, independence and joy.” A banner behind her desk gently reminds readers to “Make a conscious decision to be better every day. Be accepting. Be generous. Be kind.”
At a Glance
Organization: GiGi’s Playhouse
Location: Hoffman Estates, IL
Year founded: 2003
Year presented: 2020
Size: 31 – 49 employees
Gianni founded GiGi’s Playhouse within a year of the birth of her daughter, GiGi, born with Down syndrome. “What started out with devastation and fear ended with a love like I have never known. Without living it, I would never have understood that. I am just glad that GiGi’s Playhouse has turned into a place where people can see the other side of Down syndrome.”
GiGi’s Playhouse has grown from its original location in Illinois to 60 locations, 50 of which are presently open. All locations are 99% volunteer run, and Gianni says for every employee, there are more than 100 volunteers.
The pandemic pivot for GiGi’s Playhouse involved the cancellation of more than 4,400 hours a week of programs and events, yet the staff ramped up within 13 days, and GiGi’s is serving families and participants virtually across the U.S. and internationally.
“We are so blessed to have the team (at GiGi’s) we have. The majority started as volunteers with GiGi’s Playhouse, and they have incredible skillsets, which have become so valuable to us. And there’s not one of them who does this job for the money. Their motivation comes from their hearts,” Gianni said.
GiGi’s Playhouse makes a lifelong commitment to families. From prenatal diagnosis to therapeutic, educational and career training programs, GiGi’s Playhouse is there for them, and programs are always provided free of charge. “Our support goes beyond the family member with Down syndrome,” Gianni said. “Sometimes the entire family needs to be lifted up and empowered, and sometimes siblings need to be lifted up. And we’re there for them.”
GiGi’s Playhouse became an Insperity client because, “nonprofits can’t pay as much (as for-profit companies), so you need to be able to offer perks that make employees want to stay. The employees’ need for medical benefits drew us, but I quickly learned that Insperity offered so much more” Gianni says.
When Gianni initially considered Insperity, she said she felt a similarity of values between the two. “I realized quickly that Insperity was a like-minded company that really cares about people, their employees and the world in general.
“It’s awesome having Insperity. When someone at one of the GiGi’s Playhouses calls with an HR question, I only need to give them one phone number, and I know Insperity will handle it quickly and efficiently. I can’t help with HR situations, but Insperity can, and I know that whoever is calling will be treated like they’re the most special person from the most important GiGi’s location.
“Having Insperity as my HR leader lets me breathe and not worry about things that I know nothing about.”
Gianni credits Insperity for COVID-19 help, advising her on the ever-changing pandemic landscape. “I was in constant contact with them, because they know the latest and the greatest, and they could answer questions about any situation that might occur.”
And what about GiGi, who is now 18 years old? According to her mother, “She is rockin’ that extra chromosome! She is an avid texter, hip hop dancer and overall rock star!! Her brother and sisters worship her! I only wish I would have known how amazing life with her was going to be!!”
“Having Insperity as my HR leader lets me breathe and not worry about things that I know nothing about.” Nancy GianniFounder and Chief Belief Officer