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Gigi's Playhouse opening in Hudson

Annabelle Elling, 2 of New Richmond, plays in her GiGi’s Playhouse shirt. A GiGi’s Playhouse Down syndrome center is coming to Hudson as an extension of the Twin Cities network. Submitted photo by Jenna Elling

More than a year of work and fundraising efforts by a group of St. Croix County parents and supporters have proven successful as the community welcomes a Hudson-based GiGi's Playhouse for children and adults with Down syndrome.

Supporters began campaigning last year for a center in the area after approval was given by the national GiGi's Playhouse organization. Previously families would have to drive to St. Louis Park to reach the closest center.

Now they have a local resource with the grand opening of the Hudson center set for Saturday, Oct. 13 at the center's location at Mount Zion Lutheran Church.

The original plan was to build a new building, but space at Mount Zion Lutheran Church was offered for the center. The space allowed the center to open up earlier as a satellite of the Twin Cities GiGi's Playhouse network, said start-up committee member and parent Jenna Elling.

Elling said the supporters were always set on opening in this area, to serve the population stuck in the middle between Twin Cities and Milwaukee/Madison area services.

"We picked Hudson specifically because we kind of felt we were just almost in a dead zone," she said.

The goal of the center, Elling said, is to serve all families with Down syndrome.

"Offer all the support we can," Elling said.

Gigi's Playhouse will serve all ages, offering free education and therapeutic services and programming.

"All the services are free and are completely run by donations," Elling said.

To start, the Hudson center will offer language and music classes for early learners as well as Destination Discovery classes for all ages.

"Everybody's welcome," Elling said.

Class options will expand as the center moves forward with offerings like literacy tutoring.

Elling said the center is continually sending out surveys to families to find out what programs they would like offered.

Currently the center is connected with about a hundred families in the area. Elling said the organization will continue to expand its connections.

"Hopefully we can continue to reach out and connect with more and more families," she said.

As the mother of a 2-year-old with Down syndrome, Elling knows how helpful it is for families to have resources like GiGi's Playhouse locally, especially for new parents.

"I didn't know where to reach out," Elling said. "I couldn't find anything local."

She's excited that other families will now have somewhere to turn to right away.

"It's just always nice to have a place where you can go and you feel comfortable, welcome and included," Elling said.

More information about the center is available on its Facebook, at gigisplayhouse.org/twincities or by emailing hudson@gigisplayhouse.org.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

(715) 426-1066
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