Gigi’s Playhouse learning center helps kids with Down syndrome

Mitch Peck and Nolan Peck in front of Gigi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center. (Submitted photo)
Mitch Peck and Nolan Peck in front of Gigi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center. (Submitted photo)

By Beth Taylor

Gigi’s Playhouse began when Nancy Gianni made a promise to her daughter, Gigi, that she would help the world look beyond her diagnosis.

After attending a support group in a sterile hospital room, Gianni decided to create a place for kids like Gigi – a place where they could grow and learn with kids just like them and moms could find a community of support.

At Gigi’s Playhouse, children participate in individualized programming in a fun environment. Therapeutic and educational opportunities are available to help with speech development and motor skills.

Megan Peck, the president of Gigi’s Playhouse Indianapolis became familiar with the center through professional experiences working with children with developmental disabilities. She had worked in the field for ten years before her son, Nolan, was born in 2012 with Down syndrome.

“After the guilt and anger subsided, I knew that I wanted a Gigi’s Playhouse here,” said Peck.

She contacted the headquarters and was put on a franchise waiting list. “I don’t do a good job of sitting around and waiting. I got a board together, and followed the steps needed by the headquarters.  In March of 2013, we received word that we were the next location,” she said.

Each Gigi’s Playhouse franchise is operated by volunteers, and the programming is provided at no cost. “With all the therapy costs, it adds up – Gigi’s is such a unique place where parents can go and not worry about anything,” said Beth Meehan, a Fishers resident and board member of Gigi’s Playhouse Indianapolis.

“Kids with Down syndrome have low muscle tone, so this therapy can help supplement other therapies the kids might experience,” said Meehan. She looks forward to her two-year-old son attending the learning center. “It’s a great place where he can feel normal and have fun,” she said.

Gigi’s Playhouse Indianapolis has received an outpouring of support.

“It’s very much grassroots fundraising and two small grants that helped us to get to this point, said Meehan. “We would love for everyone in the surrounding counties of Indianapolis and Central Indiana to know about Gigi’s.”

The Gigi’s Playhouse Indianapolis grand opening is 2 to 4 p.m. Jan. 24 at 5909 E. 86th St.