CANTON, OHIO – Puzzled by the lack of resources for her child with Down syndrome a local mom helped create an inclusive community.

“We didn’t have a prenatal diagnosis so when we left the hospital, I was given a book that was copywritten in the 80’s and an email address for an organization that didn’t exist,” said Christina Ziga-Budd.

The pivotal moment in 2015 led Ziga-Budd to begin working with other families to open GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers location in Canton in 2019.

October is Down syndrome awareness month. The fast-growing non-profit has several locations across the country including Cleveland and Cincinnati. GiGi’s Playhouse in Canton supports more than 200 families facing unique challenges through free therapeutic and educational programming.

“My daughter is six years old her name is Maleah and this is her favorite place in the entire world,” said Stacy Jackson, Board President at GiGi’s Playhouse Canton. “We celebrate their differences and recognize that everybody is uniquely beautiful and uniquely different and that’s something to celebrate.”

GiGi’s Playhouse is primarily volunteer-run and funded by donations to provide services for expectant mothers, adults, and children with Down syndrome.

“GiGi’s playhouse has helped me to gain self-confidence and be independent,” said board member Nick Doyle, 33. “We have a seat at the table, we have a voice, we have a purpose.”

The achievement center is an example of the power of acceptance Ziga-Budd said and progress possible in a supportive community.

“Every adult that walks through our door is an inspiration to our family because we see they’ve preserved, they’ve overcome, they have shown society that they belong,” said Ziga-Budd.

GiGi’s Playhouse Canton is hosting a “Putts and Pints for a Purpose” fundraiser this Saturday to help fund free programming available at the achievement center.