LITTLE ROCK, Ark — (KTHV) – It's not easy to change the way the world views those living with Down Syndrome.
However, one Little Rock organization is up for the challenge, giving those with Down Syndrome, and their families, a welcoming space to call home.
For mom of two, Brittany Boccher, life is anything but normal.
“A lot of people that I encounter daily will say ‘I don't know how you do it,’ and for us it’s our new normal it’s what we do,” Brittany Boccher said.
Four years ago, Boccher’s son was diagnosed with Down Syndrome just hours after she gave birth -- a world she knew nothing about.
“We needed a home. We needed a place to call a home. A place where we could come and others would understand,” Boccher said.
After moving from Texas to Arkansas, Boccher found that home in GiGi's Playhouse, a Down Syndrome Achievement Center that offers free therapeutic and educational programs.
“GiGi’s Playhouse is 99 percent volunteer run and 100 percent donation and grant driven. We never ask a family to pay for anything,” said Site Director, Katy Sursa.
GiGi’s Playhouse, which opened in June 2019 off Shackleford Road in Little Rock is the first location in Arkansas and the only one within 600 miles of the city.
“We have professional occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, teachers and other professionals in the community that come in and offer these free programs. The family room is stocked with toys for kid of all ages,” Sursa said.
Sursa said every GiGi’s Playhouse in the nation has a stage with microphone and karaoke to encourage kids to embrace their talent. However, GiGi’s Playhouse isn’t just for the kids, adults can learn life skills, too.
“In the back in the kitchen we will be teaching cooking classes for ages 14 and up, financial management classes, laundry classes and self-care. How to keep a clean house,” Sursa said.
For Boccher, GiGi’s is her second home. A place not only for her child, but for her entire family.
“It’s a place we know we can take our child and let them go freely in this building and its open for them and its made for them,” Boccher said.
GiGi’s Playhouse also offers free birthday parties for kids with down syndrome or sensory issues.
For more information on GiGi’s playhouse or to volunteer, visit their website.