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Introducing GiGi's in the Big Apple

PART OF OUR RESOURCE 2024 SERIES: Expanding your options and your community


GiGi’s Playhouse is a one-of-a-kind achievement center for individuals with Down syndrome and their families that offers therapeutic and educational programs from prenatal diagnosis to the entire lifespan, all of which are at no cost to participants and families. The very first Playhouse was established in Hoffman Estates and was created by Nancy Gianni, our Chief Belief Officer, after she gave birth to her beautiful daughter GiGi in 2002. What began as a mother's vision to change perception, and maximize her daughter's successes, has evolved into a global movement of acceptance for ALL!


Shortly after GiGi’s birth, Nancy made a promise to GiGi: “As I carried her up the stairs, I made a promise to her that I would change the way the world looked at a person with Down syndrome; that I would help people understand that she and all of her friends were so much more than a diagnosis.”​ Over 20 years later (2023 marked 20 years of BELIEVING!), there are over 57 brick-and-mortar locations across the United States and Mexico and 200 inquiries for future sites. There is also a Virtual GiGi’s Playhouse that proudly boasts that we are the ONLY international network of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers!


GiGi's Playhouse NYC

GiGi’s Playhouse NYC opened its doors in 2012 in Harlem under the vision of our founders, Tracy Nixon and Debbie Morris. Their vision was to create a safe space where their children would be able to socialize, learn, and establish lifelong bonds. Over ten years later, we are still the only organization in New York City solely dedicated to serving the needs of the Down syndrome community. Our programs include One-on-One Math and Literacy Tutoring for individuals 3+, Speech Therapy in partnership with the NYU Steinhardt Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, Career Development Programs for adults 18+, art therapy via the Gratitude Art Program for adults 18+, fitness programs such as Friends, Fun and Fitness, and so many more!​ GiGi’s NYC can offer our programs at no cost to our community because we are 99% volunteer-led and 100% donor-funded.


GiGi's NYC Successes

GiGi’s NYC is changing the perception of Down syndrome in New York City and beyond, by recognizing and celebrating the many achievements of our diverse community. We are super proud of all that we have achieved over the years. Here are some highlights from 2023:​


  • For World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), on 3/21/23, Microsoft hosted several of our participants for a fireside chat where they discussed their achievements and future goals in front of a live and hybrid audience.​

  • Our 5th Annual Fashion Show was a huge success and even caught the attention of Cheryl Wills from NY1 News and was featured in Harper's Bazaar. You can watch the NY1 News reel here and read the article in Harper's here. ​

  • Our collaboration with Alivia, a radiant womenswear brand began with a workshop at our Playhouse hosted by Alivia Co-Founder and CCO, Jovana Mullins. Participants chose various artistic tools and drew from personal inspiration to create a design of their choice ... and the rest is history! Alivia announced its Spring 2023 collection in collaboration with GiGi's NYC participant, Stephanie, on WDSD. They also launched their Fall collection with participants, Denise and Adam, and a Holiday Collection with Charlotte. To learn more about the WDSD launch, check out this article published in WWD.

  • GiGi's NYC was honored with the Generation G Award at this year's National Conference! This award was given to us for our work with adult empowerment and advocacy. 

  • Most recently we launched our new Career Development Programs, GiGi Prep. We successfully launched a 12-week session of GiGi Prep for adults with Down syndrome ages 18+ who would like to continue on the career development path. GiGi Prep, the first of three programs in our Career Development Program series, places emphasis on building communication skills, money management, customer service skills, team building and wellness. In addition to classroom-based instruction, we also partnered with several corporations to provide our students with real-world experience in the areas of communication and interview skills: Microsoft, Avanade, Accenture, Nasdaq, Bullhorn, and Google. We are super excited to announce that all 7 students successfully completed GiGi Prep and will be joining us for our second Career Development Program in January 2024, GiGi University, where they will continue to hone the skills they learned in GiGi Prep! 


GiGi’s NYC vows to continue our important work on behalf of those with Down syndrome and their families. To learn more about us, please visit our website and follow us on Facebook at GiGi's Playhouse - NYC and Instagram at @nycgigisplayhouse. To find a Playhouse near you, please visit this website. In the meantime, enjoy this video about GiGi’s NYC!​

Rosella Lofaro

Rosella Lofaro joined the GiGi's Playhouse NYC team as their Operations Manager in August 2020. She has over 16 years of experience working in the non-profit social service sector. She earned her Master of Social Work from Fordham University, her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Manhattan College, and enjoys making a difference in communities. In her personal time, Rosella enjoys traveling, listening to music and spending quality time with her friends and family - especially her two young nieces.

GiGi's NYC Contact Info:

Facebook: GiGi's Playhouse - NYC 

Instagram: @nycgigisplayhouse 

LinkedIn: GiGi's Playhouse – NYC 

Visit all of Beyond Down Syndrome's Resource 2024 Series here.



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The Essential Guide provides step-by-step support to:

  • Inspire mindset shifts toward one of independence and possibilities

  • Foster independence building blocks from the earliest age

  • Highlight health risks and financial resources every family must know

  • Detail education and work options to promote community inclusion

  • Evaluate family- and community-based home options including the search process

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“As parents, we are the experts of our loved ones, and this is an excellent resource in navigating our own decisions to better support the goals and dreams of those we love.” Tara Goodwin, D.O., Adult Down Syndrome Clinic, QuestCare Dallas

Friedman intersperses relatable and inspiring stories from a wide array of families. Insights from many experts in the fields of communications, education, health, and financial planning provide the confidence and guidance for you to navigate your family’s path toward independence.


Beyond Down Syndrome is proud to donate a portion of all book sales proceeds to LuMind IDSC to support Down syndrome research specifically focused on the link with Alzheimer's disease. Did you know that 12% of the US population will be afflicted by Alzheimer's but 95% of the Down syndrome community will have Alzheimer's by the age of 65, often exhibiting first signs decades earlier. Together we can make a difference!


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