GiGi's Playhouse Celebrates One Year - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

GiGi's Playhouse Celebrates One Year

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Nearly 100 local families laced up their tennis shoes Saturday, walking to raise awareness for down syndrome. The walk was in conjunction with the one year anniversary of GiGi's Playhouse. GiGi's Playhouse provides free therapeutic and educational services for people of all ages with down syndrome.

It started out as a support group for local families affected by the genetic condition, but after years of fundraising, last October GiGi's Playhouse opened up in Moline. At the annual Quad Cities down syndrome awareness walk we caught up with one family who said the playhouse has been a true blessing.

"I love you, I love you," said Natalie Bates to her son Gavin.

Natalie and Nathan Bates' son, Gavin, is the light of their life. However, the couple admits, when they first found out their baby would have down syndrome they had their fears.

"It was scary at first," Natalie Bates said.

"It's almost kind of embarrassing that we were upset about it, but once we actually met Gavin, I couldn't imagine him being any different, he's awesome," Nathan Bates said.

The couple said GiGi's Playhouse has helped them realize just how much potential their son has and how rewarding being the parent of a child with down syndrome can be.

"It's touching and kind of emotional for us," the couple said. "We have made tons of friends from GiGi's, lots of support, people who can tell us things they've been through."

The couple said GiGi's has not only helped them with support and knowledge. It's been great for Gavin too, he gets to learn and play with kids just like him.

"He's going to be there is whole life."

Those who work at GiGi's Playhouse said one of their goals is raise the bar in terms of what those with down syndrome can do and promote acceptance. As part of that message they are kicking off a new campaign later this month, called "One Million Voices". It features pictures of local families.

 The money raised at the down syndrome awareness walk helps fund GiGi's Playhouse, which runs solely on donations and grants.