You know that I am a member of the Crystal Lake Kiwanis Club.
It meets twice a month at Colonial Cafe. We often have informative speakers.
Wednesday, a mother and aunt of Down Syndrome children came to explain GiGi’s Playhouse, which is opening soon in McHenry. The pamphlet passed out calls it “a Down Syndrome awareness center.”
They were not only informative, they were inspirational.
They came to talk about a new GiGi’s Playhouse, which will open in McHenry on Route 31 north of Route 120 the end of April. It just south of McCullom Lake Road.
Johnsburg’s Carol Ancel, who is the mother of a Down Syndrome child did most of the talking. She was accompanied by Susan DuBois of Spring Grove. DuBois is the aunt I mentioned.
Ancel explained that the Down’s kids “learn to read pretty early.”
The pamphlet tells of a “FREE Learn to Read” program. It points out that research shows that “children with Down Syndrome learn to read differently.”
She and DuBois would like to help develop more such opportunities.
Because they “mimic kids around them,” the two are planning to open a place where Down’s kids can play with normal kids their own age.
“You try to stop the segregation of disabilities,” Ancel said.
Their goal is ambitious. They are talking birth to adulthood.
As they learn, “they are so much happier to do it with a group,” Ancel said, so another reason for the intermingling with other children their age.
Ancel pointed out something I didn’t realize: some of the young people “have drivers’ licenses.”
Some “have kiosk businesses.”
“When you get a diagnosis, you get nothing but (negative input),” she said.
Ancel said the group was seeking legislation to require those making diagnoses “to give accurate information.”
“80 to 90% of prenatal diagnoses are aborted,” she continued.
I must admit that brought me up short.
“If you have a kid with Down Syndrome, (people should be saying) ‘You’re so lucky!’”
GiGi’s Playhouse is designed for more than “just the emotional support; it’s the practical support.”
The two women got know what a GiGi’s Playhouse is all about at the Hoffman Estates‘ location.
They concluded that it was “easier to start one yourself than to take (kids all the way) to Hoffman Estates.”
Besides the planned one in McHenry, another will soon open in Chicago and one is in the planning stages in Westmont, we were told. Another is already open in Plainfield.
As Ancel described it, this is a Moms’ Effort. It’s an all-volunteer effort.
“If the parents, don’t participate and volunteer, we won’t last long,” she added.
And McHenry County “Moms” and others like Aunt Susan are ready to open a GiGi’s Playhouse in McHenry on April 26th.
Hey, that’s the end of this month.
“It’s in a positive, uplifting, the sky’s the limit type of program,” Ancel explained.
An anonymous donor has donated use of the building, which is next to a liquor store at 1720 N. Richmond Road, behind Applebee’s.
Activities will be scheduled, rather than run continuously.
On the last Saturday of the month the Playhouse will be open from noon to 3. Here’s the invitation.
“Come for Fun, Games, Food and Friends!”
So, bring your kidlings, regardless of age and regardless of whether they have Down Syndrome.
The group’s slogan is
“Loving a Child with Down Syndrome is Contagious. Help us spread the Love!”
and it says, “just to name a few.”
The two would love to speak to other local groups. The phone number is 815-385-PLAY (385-7529).
“We’re not a support group. We just want to raise awareness,” DuBois said.
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Carol Ancel is the woman in the pictures. The map shows where GiGi’s Playhouse is located in McHenry.