1 year later: GiGi’s Playhouse rebuilding after arson

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 5:16 AM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - GiGi’s Playhouse in Fargo is North Dakota’s only Down syndrome achievement center, and it’s still building back after arson took down the building on May 11, 2021.

Valley News Live got a tour of the new space to see how they’re rising from the ashes and working toward their goals.

“What do you think of this?” Kellie Hamre, Board President for GiGi’s Playhouse-Fargo says to her daughter as they walk through what will be the new gym. “Pretty cool huh? Mom thinks so too.”

The duo is walking through the cool new space for people with Down syndrome, after the old one went up in flames.

“It has been a long year,” Hamre says. “Coming up on Wednesday [the anniversary] I think we all have a little bit of anxiety with it.”

Hamre has devoted countless hours to the rebuild while raising a family of her own. Her daughter, Bryn, uses the services GiGi’s provides.

The new Playhouse has come a long way in the past year. From flames, to bulldozed rubble, to a new state-of-the-art space.

“You feel that sense of hope. I think that as a special needs parent, you get used to getting your knocks and having a few more things handed your way,” Hamre says. “We’ve been able to thankfully go with the flow on this one, but it’s nice to be able to see it come to fruition because we’ve all been working so hard.”

The new space will have a nearly half-court gym, kitchens, laundry, inclusive bathrooms, and a space for literacy and math tutoring, to name a few things. “This is our time,” Hamre smiles. “I really feel like this is our time. Even though we’ve had the knock of the fire, what we’ve been able to do with it to provide so much more opportunities is going to be life-changing for our individuals.”

The new GiGi’s is just about double the size of the old one, giving them the proper space for growth.

“Our individuals deserve a state-of-the-art space,” Hamre says.

Even while the Playhouse ran through a temporary space, more families signed up for services, showing the need for something like GiGi’s in the community.

“Now we can look to the future instead of cleaning up the damage done. Now we can look to the future and truly focus on what matters most,” Hamre says as she smiles at her daughter.

GiGi’s Playhouse-Fargo hopes to be in the new space sometime in the summer to fall of 2022. They’re still in the middle of a capitol campaign and need your help in raising funds.

All of the programs offered at GiGi’s are free to families and the local organization doesn’t get any government funding.

Click here to donate and help people in the Red River Valley with Down syndrome.

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