There’s a movement afoot to establish Long Island’s first-ever GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center for local children, adults and their families.
And the goal is to build in Patchogue.
“This would be a tremendous resource, not just for our children but the community at large, said Venessa Diaz, a co-chairperson with the local GiGi’s group.
Diaz also has twin sons, Julian and Nole, who each have Down syndrome.
(Click here to read about her story.)
The center would provide free therapeutic and educational programs, from cooking classes to physical therapy. Other programs and services would include math tutoring, speech, job interview skills training, occupational therapy, and dance, arts and fitness classes.
It’s also at tremendous resource for the parents, explained Michael Cirigliano of the Cirigliano Insurance Agency in Patchogue, also a co-chair.
He and Diaz are family friends.
“It’s for the parents too, to socialize and compare notes,” Cirigliano said. “There is a huge need for something like this on the island. People don’t know where they can go and feel safe and comfortable with their kids running around. And we want to provide that.”
The group needs about $150,000 to get started, and is in the process of organizing fundraisers in the Greater Patchogue area to the East End, explained Cirigliano, who also lives in Patchogue. They’re also collecting donations online.
He said Patchogue is a suitable location due to its accessibility from points east and west on Long Island, and that the village has a lot to offer visitors — between the retail and restaurants.
He said the perfect space would be “large and spacious, with big bright windows and lots of pedestrian traffic.”
The next closest GiGi’s Playhouse is in on West 117th Street in NYC, but the concept started near Chicago.
(Click here to read more about GiGi’s. There’s also a video that appears below.)
Aside from the individual children and adults with Down syndrome the center will help, Diaz said the efforts are part of developing a stronger community and a better world.
And, all are invited.
“We’re not going to stop you at the door and ask for your D.S. card,” she joked.
“But goal is global inclusion,” Diaz continued. “We want to have typical children playing with children with Down syndrome, which is the way it should be. We’re all different and we need to embrace one another’s differences to erase the stigma.”
Click here to learn more about GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island and to donate. Donations can also be made in-person at the Cirigliano Agency at 629 Route 112 in Patchogue.
Top Photo: Venessa Diaz’s daughter, Claudessa, with her twin brothers, Julian and Nole.