At Issue: Chief Belief Officer at Gigi’s Playhouse Nancy Gianni Keeps Growing Organization to 46 Locations

Bernie Tafoya
October 18, 2019 - 3:30 pm

Bernie Tafoya/WBBM)

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A northwest suburban organization continues to grow as it provides free developmental services to people with Down syndrome.

Nancy Gianni is Chief Belief Officer with Gigi’s Playhouse, an organization she started a year after her daughter, Gigi, was born in 2002 with Down syndrome. Gianni said when Gigi was born, people offered her condolences instead of congratulations.

“Seventeen years ago when Gigi was born, there was a lot of negativity surrounding the diagnosis," Gianni said. "I didn’t know she was going to have Down syndrome. The medical community took good care of me, but they also made me feel like life as I knew it was over.”

She became determined to make a good life for Gigi and others, and that is the core of what Gigi’s Playhouse is all about.

"(It's) strengthening their bodies, strengthening their minds, strengthening their families and showing the world that these guys have the potential and they can do anything that they put their mind to," she said. 

The organization has several events and programs to empower and advocate for families with Down syndrome. (Bernie Tafoya/WBBM)

In 2016, Gianni was named one of CNN's Heroes for starting the organization, its successful program model and its influence. 

Now, there are 46 Gigi’s Playhouses across the country and in Mexico, the most recent one opening this week in New Orleans. Miami will be the next location to open. Their missions are to spread a global message of acceptance and provide education, fitness and job skills programs free to people with Down syndrome.

Gigi's Playhouse has grown since its inception in 2008 and now has 46 locations nationwide, including in Mexico. It spreads a global message of acceptance and provides education, fitness and job skills programs free to people with Down syndrome. (Bernie Tafoya/WBBM)

Gigi Gianni even sang the national anthem at a Cubs game this past season. 

“For Gigi to sing that national anthem, (it) took her years," her mother said. "She memorized the words in a week but for her to actually be able to articulate and have diction where everybody can understand what she was saying has taken her probably the last nine years.”

Nancy Gianni is the guest on our At Issue program this weekend. You can hear more Sunday at 9:30 a.m and 9:30 pm.