GiGi’s Playhouse Fargo trying to move forward in temporary space

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - North Dakota’s only Down syndrome achievement center is now rising from the ashes.

Five months ago, GiGi’s Playhouse in Fargo burned to the ground, and just recently they’ve started bringing a few programs back to help people with Down syndrome.

You often hear, you never know what you had until it’s gone. That was learned the hard way by GiGi’s Playhouse.

“I miss that sense of home,” says Heather Lorenzen, Executive Director of GiGi’s Playhouse Fargo.

The handwritten notes now posted on the pillars of the new space give a small sense of normalcy. However, the wide-open floorplan isn’t the best for programming.

“This gym space is great, but without physical walls, it doesn’t create that structure or routine where people won’t engage with full attention to the programs,” Lorenzen says.

The Executive Director of the playhouse says the lack of walls in the building not only creates a hassle with the gym, but it means fewer programs can run, and that means fewer people getting the help they need.

Before the fire, the playhouse could run 22 programs, now they can only offer seven.

“For us to be in a space where we can run seven programs is phenomenal, but it’s not home.”

The former playhouse had a lounge for teens and adults, rooms for tutoring, a kitchen and spaces designed specifically for the needs of people with Down syndrome. Now those spaces are just rubble.

“It’s a bump in the road to help us get to where we want to be again,” Lorenzen says.

What once was tutoring rooms is now folding tables and chairs. A sensory gym with a rock wall is replaced with some laminate flooring. The current open play area is nice for running around, but it’s a major distraction for the kids trying to learn.

“We have pieces of the puzzle that we are starting to put together, but that puzzle isn’t whole.”

Until the puzzle is complete, the folks at GiGi’s are trying their best to move forward with a sense of gratitude.

“Having a roof over our head is great, but it doesn’t make us whole. We are really trying to make ourselves whole again. Ultimately we want to accelerate acceptance for individuals with Down syndrome and provide them opportunities to change the world.”

GiGi’s Playhouse has committed to building back on its former site, but that doesn’t come cheap.

They need your financial help to open the doors again. GiGi’s doesn’t charge anything to the families it serves, and they don’t get any government funding.

You can donate to help rebuild the playhouse by clicking here.

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