Gigi’s Playhouse at risk of closing its doors


ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO)–Rockford’s only Down syndrome awareness center is at risk of closing. The agency is in need of thousands of dollars after it missed out on several major fundraisers this year due to the coronavirus–a harsh blow since they rely solely on donations.

“We really want this to be here for generations,” Penny Wirtjes said.

Wirtjes helped bring the facility to the Rockford area after her grandson Landon was born. She now helps other parents find resources, celebrating each child who walks through the doors.

“It really gives them the confidence to be their best of all skills–all kinds of things,” Wirtjes said.

“It’s a place where people can feel accepted and have their own space,” Executive Director of Gigi’s Karen Carlson said.

Josh Denen has been going to the Down syndrome awareness center for nearly eight years– it’s where he’s not only mastered his love for cooking– but also new friendships. It’s those relationships Josh misses most– so the Denens are joining a national effort to raise money for the playhouse.

“We were so concerned, we knew this would impact Gigi’s hard,” Josh’s mother, Cindy Denen, said. “It’s so good for their well-being and keeping active.”

You can donate here for Gigi’s Playhouse “Step to Accept” fundraiser.


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