Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gigi's Playhouse

When my mom came home with this 10-day old baby with the most beautiful big brown eyes and brown skin, I was sold.  She had me from hello.  Even though we were only supposed to have her for a few months, I think we all knew this was forever.  My sweet Lisa Ashley was an O'Reilly from day one.

When Brynn is winding down for the day she often asks for stories about all different topics.  The one she asks for the most are funny stories about my adopted younger sister Lisa when she was a little girl.  The stories are in such abundance, we should write a book.  This girl has had us cracking up since she entered our lives 22 and a half years ago.

Although Lisa's skin is a different color than ours, that is just about the only difference that is obvious to us.  The fact that she also has Down syndrome never has been an issue.  It is just part of who she is and has made her all that much more endearing.

Down Syndrome children are the most loving and happy children I have been around.  They are always ready for a laugh and hug.  My cousin Luke was born with Down syndrome almost five years ago and his mom, Diane, has been an amazing advocate for public education of this genetic condition.

Diane is entering a new career phase in her journey of life and intends to open a Gigi's Playhouse in the south suburbs of Chicago by September 2013.  Gigi's playhouse is a Down Syndrome Awareness Center and a not-for-profit center offering support for new or expectant parents in addition to play groups, therapies, and tutoring in math and reading for children of all ages.  What started as a local playhouse in a suburb of Chicago has turned into an international phenomenon, spreading awareness and inspiration to everyone it touches. 

She has organized a Board of Directors and is planning to open a Gigi's Playhouse in the Oak Forest/Midlothian area.  She is looking forward to creating a safe and welcoming haven for children with Down syndrome and their families.

Their vision "is to see a world where individuals with Down syndrome are accepted and embraced in their families, schools, and communities."

Their mission "is to increase positive awareness of Down syndrome through national campaigns, educational programs, and by empowering individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the community."

In just 9 years, 12 Playhouses have opened and  there are more in the works! GiGi’s is committed to the important mission of spreading positive and accurate information about Down syndrome through education. We know that by helping individuals with Down syndrome reach their highest potential, we can change outdated perceptions that people may have. The end result is a world that is empowered with knowledge, compassion, and inspiration – what a better place for all of us!

Here is where you and I come order to do this, they need to gather funds.  It will cost about $100k to open the doors of a new site and keep it running for the first year.  As the official photographer for this new location of Gigi's Playhouse, I am offering a special on your session fee if you make a donation.  Whatever your donation denomination is, I will knock that amount off of your photo session with me (for a session in 2013).

At this time, donations can be made in the form of a check to:
Diane Husar
5100 Deerpath Rd
Oak Forest, IL 60452

Be sure to mention that you heard about this special from my blog to get your discounted rate on your session.

Once the initial goal of $15,000 is made, this new location will be added to the official website and also become a part of the National Organization of Gigi's Playhouse and then donations will be able to be given on-line.  

The hope is that another location of Gigi's Playhouse can offer families who receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome the support and guidance they need to make it through what can be a very difficult time.  In addition, they hope to become the extended family they may need to help their child reach his or her fullest and greatest potential.

Luke's diagnosis of Down syndrome did not turn a happy story into a sad one for Diane and her husband.  It just created a different story...a wonderful one that I am sure they would not change for the world.

Please join me in supporting Diane to create something exceptional for all stories like these.