Photo Caption:  On Oct. 5 at Chicago City Hall, Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a proclamation recognizing October as Down Syndrome Acceptance Month, helping to shift the focus from awareness to acceptance nationwide. He was joined by (left to right) Diane Urhausen, Executive Director of the National Association for Down Syndrome; Colleen Mueller, events chair for GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago; Kelly Casorso, a self-advocate from GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago; Nancy Gianni, GiGi’s Playhouse founder; GiGi Gianni; Maria Pradd, president of GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago; and Amy Archer, site director for GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago. Photo Credit: Brooke Collins, City of Chicago.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has issued a proclamation recognizing October as Down Syndrome Acceptance Month, as GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago prepares to celebrate with a grand reopening of its new-and-improved space on Oct. 23. Emanuel presented the resolution on Oct. 5 at City Hall, joined by GiGi’s Playhouse founder Nancy Gianni, her daughter GiGi and representatives from the Chicago GiGi’s Playhouse and the National Association for Down Syndrome. International non-profit GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers have launched a national movement to change October’s Down Syndrome Awareness Month to Down Syndrome Acceptance Month. Emanuel’s declaration of support is an important step toward changing the way the world sees Down syndrome and inspiring people to embrace the GiGi’s Playhouse mission of acceptance for all, according to Gianni.

“To honor individuals with Down syndrome and to proudly celebrate the individuality of all of our residents, we have declared this month and every October thereafter Down Syndrome Acceptance Month in the City of Chicago,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I want to commend Nancy Gianni and GiGi’s Playhouse for their passion and commitment to improving the lives of all who are affected by Down syndrome, and for working to make our city not only more aware, but more accepting of Down syndrome and those whose lives are touched by it.”

“We want to strengthen the meaning of this month while moving the focus towards acceptance,” adds Gianni, who recently was named a 2016 CNN Hero. “Awareness was our first step, but acceptance will change the world, and that is our mission.”

The Mayor of Hoffman Estates, the location of GiGi’s national headquarters, is also making an official proclamation, and GiGi’s Playhouses nationwide are engaging in campaigns to have similar resolutions in their communities. The organization also is working with its 31 locations in the U.S. and Mexico to plan and promote a series of meaningful events throughout October.  This includes the grand reopening celebration for the GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago, which has been expanded and remodeled to meet growing demand. The GiGi’s Playhouse community and families will celebrate where they’ve been and where they’re headed during the Oct. 23 celebration, which will be held at the center at 3948 N. Lincoln. The new, bigger space will allow the organization to better serve a greater number of families and continue providing programs that cover all life stages, from birth to pre-teen to adulthood.

GiGi’s Playhouse, which provides free life-changing therapeutic and educational programs for 26,000 people throughout the country, also has experienced unprecedented growth. Each month, 250 families are added, resulting in a consistent monthly growth of 16 percent across the network. In addition, 200 new communities have asked for a GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center to be established in their area. The significant growth and interest reflect a demand for programs that target the underserved population of more than 450,000 Americans living with Down syndrome.

Gigi's LogoAbout GiGi’s Playhouse
Founded in 2003, GiGi’s Playhouse is the only international network of Down syndrome achievement centers, changing lives through free programs for individuals of all ages. The organization makes a lifetime commitment to support and empower families from diagnosis to adulthood. GiGi’s Playhouse also works to break down barriers and change the way the world sees people who are different, by promoting acceptance for all through the #GenerationG campaign. The goal is to have a GiGi’s Playhouse in every state by 2021. The organization’s national recognition is growing, with founder Nancy Gianni being named a 2016 CNN Hero. In October, she was featured on the national “Steve Harvey Show” as a “Game Changing Woman.” GiGi’s Playhouse survives completely on donor funds and is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization. For more information about how you can help, visit www.GiGisplayhouse.org.

GiGi’s Playhouses are located in the following cities: Atlanta; Chicago; Cleveland; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; New York; Phoenix; Bradley, Ill.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Des Moines, Iowa; El Paso, Texas; Fargo, N.D.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Fox Valley, Ill.; Gainesville, Fla.; Hillsborough, N.J.; Hoffman Estates, Ill.; Layton, Utah; Madison, Wis.; McHenry, Ill.; Nashville, Tenn.; Quad Cities, Ill.; Raleigh, N.C.; Rockford, Ill.; Sioux City, Iowa; Sugar Land, Texas; Syracuse, N.Y.; Tinley Park, Ill.; Twin Cities, Minn.; Westchester, N.Y.; and Queretaro, Mexico.

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