GiGi’s Playhouse Madison celebrates World Down Syndrome Day

World Down Syndrome Day is on Tuesday, March 21, but GiGi’s Playhouse Madison is celebrating the global awareness day a few days early.
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 12:47 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - World Down Syndrome Day is on Tuesday, March 21, but GiGi’s Playhouse Madison is celebrating the global awareness day a few days early.

Friday night at GiGi’s Playhouse, families and community members will gather to celebrate individuals with Down Syndrome.

”I think it’s just an extra reason to get together. Yes, to celebrate everyday, but to celebrate all of the diversity that comes with all of our loved ones with Down Syndrome but it doesn’t stop there. It’s really just a way to celebrate diversity in the world and in society,” Katie Gerlach, mother of 5-year-old Sylvia, said.

Sylvia Gerlach was born with Down Syndrome. Katie and her husband Nathan said Sylvia had a medically-complex first year of life which consisted of lots of hospital stays. At the age of three, Sylvia was diagnosed with Leukemia.

“There’s a higher percentage of people with Down Syndrome that have a greater chance of being diagnosed with Leukemia but still it’s a shock when it happens. It was a long journey but we were in a great place,” Nathan said.

The Gerlach’s said Sylvia finished treatment in August and is doing well now. She goes to GiGi’s Playhouse Madison for speech therapy and the family will be celebrating World Down Syndrome Day Friday night.

“So often we look at differences as challenges and as being different as negative but there’s so much positive that comes from it as well,” Katie said.

22-year-old Maya Greengus also spends time at GiGi’s Playhouse and she’s a self-advocate for the genetic disorder.

“Being born with Down Syndrome gave me the opportunity to be a role model to so many individuals here across the Midwest and also here in Madison, Wisconsin. A lot of people come up to me and say ‘You make quite a difference in our lives,’ and I say ‘thank you so much’ because I feel like the whole message is telling people ‘you belong here. You are accepted.’ We bring awareness,” she said.

Maya’s father, Joah Greengus, told stories about his daughter with Down Syndrome and all of her accomplishments.

“Just when I think she can’t do something she always proves me wrong,” he said.

Emily Woodruff and her 3-year-old sister, Ellora, also come to GiGi’s Playhouse.

“It’s really given just a sense of community. We’ll come here very often and she loves interacting with all of the kids and they do so many fun activities and it’s just a really great thing to do I try to do it with them as much as I can,” Woodruff said.

Over 100 people are expected to be at the celebration Friday at 5:30 p.m.

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