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GiGi's Playhouse grows in Rochester

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC-TV) - Ahead of World Down Syndrome Day, GiGi's Playhouse Rochester is growing and preparing for its Mardi Gras fundraiser this Saturday, March 24.

Board member Carrielyn Bertino, parent Deborah Theodorou and her son Josh discussed GiGi's Playhouse Rochester Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

"GiGi's Playhouse is the only worldwide network of Down Syndrome achievement centers," said Bertino. "We were the thirty-second location to open, but there are 36 across the United States and Mexico. It is a trend that is growing, and very-much needed in many communities."

Josh explained what he and his friends do at GiGi's Playhouse. "We play video games, and also do cooking classes. We also dance together. We make friends, and we cook. We help the Open Door Mission. I was a D-J for the dance party at GiGi's."

His mother said it's hard to put into one sentence what GiGi's Playhouse has meant to her family. "It's opened a whole new dimension for Joshua, socially, friendship-wise and support," said Theodorou. "It's just feeling like he has a place he can go and be himself."

Bertino said GiGi's Playhouse Rochester will celebrate World Down Syndrome Day on Wednesday, March 21. "At GiGi's, normally we have tons of activities. Everything is free to our participants. We offer free therapeutic-based educational programing that families can utilize. You don't have to have Down syndrome. It can be anyone who wants to utilize our programs. We have something for everyone, from babies, all the way through to adults, parents and siblings. It's a family event. Tomorrow, we're so excited, because for 3/21 -- people with Down syndrome have three copies of the twenty-first chromosome -- we are celebrating 'Crazy Sock Day.' To celebrate our uniqueness, we are having a sock hop at GiGi's, which is free to our participants and families. It's going to be a good time."

She added, "We offer educational, therapeutic-based, cooking, like Josh said, fitness programs, and handwriting programs. We're starting a free one-to-one literacy tutoring in the next month and a half. We have tons of opportunities. The vision of GiGi's is that we want to have people be successful and get out into the community. Like Josh mentioned, we want to help our community members. Two-fold, we want people to see that anybody with some differences or some disabilities, are just like anybody else. That's really our greater mission for GiGi's."

Fundraising is key to offering free programming. GiGi's Playhouse Rochester will host its Mardi Gras Extravaganza this Saturday, March 24 beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Rochester. There will be dinner, dancing, drinks and casino tables, along with live and silent auctions!

You can register online, click here.

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