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The Inspiring Founding Story of GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers

We came across this touching story of love, caring, and entrepreneurship that we felt compelled to share with you.

Nancy Gianni is the Founder and “Chief Belief Officer” of GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers, and the visionary behind the organization’s launch and dramatic growth where thousands of individuals and families nationwide and in Mexico participate in FREE educational, therapeutic and career training programs. She was named a CNN Hero of 2016 for her work.

Here is her story :

Fourteen years ago, when my daughter GiGi was born, I had no idea she was going to change the world.

That’s not entirely true. In retrospect, there were many enlightening signs. Before I found out I was pregnant with GiGi, I became extremely outspoken—to the point of almost losing a client for my husband and friends for myself! I wondered why I was on this moral “high horse” and then I found out I was pregnant.

Excitedly, I remember thinking, Wow! This child has a voice! Who is she going to be? The president? A world leader? She is already morally sound and making me stand up for what is right! I should not have been surprised when she was born with Down syndrome.

Back then, I did not see GiGi’s birth as the miracle I know it is today. I was blindsided by her Down syndrome diagnosis and petrified for my family. I knew I was going to get through the experience but I was afraid of the life my kids would now have. I had always wanted to help people, especially those with Down syndrome. Secretly, I felt as if I had willed this child upon my family.

I opened the first GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center immediately after GiGi’s first birthday. I remember my husband telling me that if I did this, we could not have any more kids. GiGi’s Playhouse was going to be my last baby! Little did I know that I would have 31 more kids (GiGi’s Playhouses!) around the US and in Mexico and that I would be expecting 100 more!

GiGi’s Playhouse was created by a series of little miracles that continue to happen to this day.

Miracles are not always pretty or easily seen and sometimes you must search for them. A miracle may even be disguised in pain or tragedy. It’s what you do with that experience that brings your miracle to the forefront. It’s finding inner strength to propel you to action.

Do not think you don’t have it! You are born with it. You just have to find it.

I did not know that the birth of GiGi and the shocking diagnosis of Down syndrome would be a miracle, but let me tell you, it has triggered a series of miracles that are changing the world.

When people ask me when I am going to slow down I always say “I will slow down when the miracles slow down”. Well it does not appear that the miracles will end anytime soon! A higher power is navigating this wild ride. GiGi and I just happen to be sitting in the driver’s seat! GiGi continues to travel and speak at every opening. It is such a gift to see her using her own voice—that originated within in me just 14 years ago.

With that, our mission to change the world will continue—one child, one diagnosis, one community (and, let us add, one miracle) at a time!

More info about GiGi’s Playhouse: here.

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