Gigi’s Playhouse Down syndrome Center Opens in Canton

Gigi’s Playhouse Down syndrome Center Opens in Canton

Photos by Angela Gartner

Stacy Jackson was thrilled to finally see Gigi’s Playhouse in Canton open its doors in April. She was part of the launch team for the Down syndrome Achievement Center located at 4061 Bradley Circle NW.

“It’s amazing to see the impact to the community,” she said. She noted that her 2-year-old daughter, Maleah, who has Down syndrome, will have a place where she will feel accepted.

There are now locations in 45 communities across the U.S. and Mexico. Nancy Gianni created the organization to change the way the world views a Down syndrome, diagnosis and to send a global message of acceptance for all. It was inspired by her daughter, Gigi, who was born with Down syndrome in 2002.

Stacy Jackson and daughter, Maleah

“It’s so emotional to be in these rooms here in Canton, knowing that so many lives will be transformed within each one of these walls,” Gianni said at the center’s grand opening event last month. “Not just for the kids with Down syndrome, but everyone in the community. Individuals with Down syndrome will benefit from free tutoring in literacy and math, free therapeutic-based programming, and free career skills training. At the same time, the community gets a dedicated place to learn about the value of acceptance, and how they can be part of changing lives.”

Sara Heckert, the center’s founding board president, whose adopted daughter, Ava, 3, has Down syndrome, says the free programs will be for all ages. Participants can come to play, learn and develop skills and interact with others — and just be themselves.

Gabriel, 3

“The family needs a place to go where they can see for themselves that everything is going to be ok.” Heckert says.

To learn more about this organization or to donate or sign up to volunteer, visit

About the author

Angela Gartner is the editor at Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine. She previously served as editor for family and general interest magazines in the region. As a journalist, her articles and columns have appeared in newspapers and other publications including The News-Herald, Sun Newspapers as well as the Chicago Tribune. She grew up in Northeast Ohio and is a mom of two boys. The whole family is busy each weekend with sports and finding new happenings around the region. She loves reading books, being a board member at the Cleveland Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and taking the family dog, a Scottish Terrier named Jagger, on his walks.

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