Mother makes long trek to get her son services at GiGi’s Playhouse-Fargo

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 6:10 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - We all know parents will do practically anything for their children, and one Lidgerwood, ND mother travels 73 miles to get specialized services for her son with Down syndrome.

They go to GiGi’s Playhouse in Fargo, the state’s only Down syndrome achievement center.

We’re often told to march to the beat of our own drum. While it might not always look like how you might march, 5-year-old Michael Heley is still moving forward in his own way.

“I’m just glad to know there’s somewhere he can go. It is a ways to go, but it’s relatively close when you think of other communities that aren’t even close to a GiGi’s,” says Gina Heley, Michael’s mother.

Michael and his mother are moving and grooving to GiGi-Fit Kid, a program designed to build strength, endurance and control.

The program is a long drive and a long time coming. It’s the first in-person GiGi-Fit Kid since the pandemic started.

“During the pandemic it was tough because he wasn’t able to go to school, and for kids like him, he needs to be there,” says Gina.

Mom and Michael have been coming to GiGi’s since he was born, they were looking for guidance and support.

“Some people would say when they first learned he had Down syndrome, ‘oh I’m sorry.’ I understand that, but you just want people to know it’s actually a huge blessing and we are really blessed to have him, and he’s taught us a lot, he’s taught me patience.”

In the program, Mom and Michael work on getting his knees up nice and high, and keeping their hopes high for his future, despite some fears.

“You always worry about bullying and stuff like that because there is some of that with typical children and probably more with kids with Down syndrome. I worry about him being taken advantage of or something because he has such a loving heart that he would do anything for anybody.”

Whether the GiGi-Fit class is strengthening his muscles or simply our smiles, it’s all beneficial. By being together and sharing their own personal strengths, Michael and the others at GiGi’s Playhouse are working to create a happier community.

The original GiGi’s Playhouse in Fargo was ravaged by fire this past spring. That means families like Michael’s need your help getting a new playhouse.

Every dollar you donate will be matched by the Engelstad Foundation. If you would like to donate to help families affected by Down syndrome, click here.

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