We’re so excited to partner with the incredible organization GiGi’s Playhouse to give back in honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month! GiGi’s Playhouse is a network of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers that provides FREE, life-changing therapeutic, educational and career training programs for individuals of all ages. Shop the beautiful Dream Collection, and we’ll donate 50% of your purchase price to GiGi’s Playhouse through October 31st. 

Claire Casteel is the Educational Director of GiGi’s Playhouse Atlanta/Roswell and absolutely passionate about the life-changing work the organization is doing across the continent. In her guest blog post, Claire shares the story behind this collaboration with Erin Condren and sheds light on the beauty and impact this Dream Collection has on those with Down syndrome, their families and surrounding communities.

Making Dreams Come True

By Claire Casteel, Educational Director of GiGi’s Playhouse Atlanta/Roswell

I was asked (along with several other amazing people) to help launch one of GiGi’s programs, GiGi’s Prep, last September. GiGi’s Prep is especially important to those with Down syndrome because children in Special Education place out of public school at age 22. This is when we really see the struggles of trying to be a contributing member of society through employment, independent living, and socialization with peers. So, the need is there, and that’s where GiGi’s comes in. 

GiGi’s Playhouse, a tax-exempt charitable organization, is the ONLY international network of Down syndrome achievement centers, changing lives through free, therapeutic and educational programs for individuals of all ages, families and communities. Founded in 2003 by CNN Hero Nancy Gianni after the birth of her daughter GiGi, the organization makes a lifetime commitment to support and empower families from diagnosis to adulthood, build confidence and send a global message of acceptance for all.

The parents, caregivers, and students were elated that GiGi’s was going to bridge the gap between public school Special Education to employment, independent living, and socialization with peers by providing FREE instruction and support every week. The lessons incorporated functional math and literacy skills, team building, communication, fitness, and nutrition. We also spent the year focusing on the students’ dreams and ambitions and how they could present themselves to the community and corporate America and establish themselves as the valuable members of society they truly are. 

With hard work and partnerships with companies like Erin Condren, the dream became a reality! As a result of creating beautiful, marketable goods that people love and that come from a pure place of hope and determination, the students have developed confidence, financial skills, creativity, pride, and relationships with major corporations that could be a stepping stone for future employment! 

We even coined the phrase “We D.R.E.A.M.: Developing Real Employment to Achieve More.” We’re so excited to keep the DREAM going with our second year beginning this month!

The Dream Collection

A few months ago, I was looking at ErinCondren.com and all the inspirational quotes throughout all of the products just really struck me. I felt like they were all applicable to what we are instilling in our students at GiGi’s Prep and children at GiGi’s Playhouse as a whole!

I reached out to Erin Condren with the idea of a DREAM collection with GiGi’s Prep students as the artists! After discussing the potential partnership with Erin Condren and GiGi’s Playhouse, we submitted the students’ artwork. The students worked 100% independently, choosing their own color schemes and creating their original designs using Alcohol Ink (which is such a fun medium to work with). The Dream Collection became a reality when the design team at EC chose two of our talented artists (Thomas, age 30 & Misbah, age 27) to be featured for Down Syndrome Awareness Month!!  

Best of all … Erin happens to be my cousin!! I remember in 2004, she came to Dallas (where I was living at the time) to do a home show when I was pregnant with my second son. She was showing me her scrapbook of creations and asked if she could do his birth announcements! Of course, they were amazingly unique and trendy, and I got a ton of compliments! I had no idea at the time what greatness my Cool Cali’ Cuz’ was in store for!! I am so proud of how hard she has worked to build EC! We are super lucky to have a close family that REALLY does LOVE spending time together! So, I am full of joy that we are finally able to collaborate on something together and do something impactful!! 

Erin Condren & Claire Casteel

I love you Cuz’! A special thank you to Erin’s amazing team that worked with me on this and the wonderful GiGi’s Playhouse team that has made all of this possible!

Keeping the Dream Going

With 46 Playhouses across the United States and Mexico, GiGi’s Playhouse is growing by 16% each month and aims to have a Playhouse in every State by 2021. Surviving completely on donor funds, GiGi’s Playhouse breaks down barriers and changes the way the world sees individuals with Down syndrome by fostering acceptance and hope for everyone through #GenerationG.

Shop the inspirational Dream Collection, and Erin Condren will donate 50% back to GiGi’s Playhouse during Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Thank you for your support as we continue to give back!

*50% of the purchase price from the sale of each GiGi’s Playhouse x Erin Condren item sold in the continental United States will be contributed to GiGi’s Playhouse, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization. This contribution is not tax-deductible by purchasers. The promotion is valid from 9/5/19 through 10/31/19.

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