As expected, the Board of GiGi’s Playhouse Gainesville and the many volunteers and sponsors put together a fantastic inaugural fundraising event last Saturday. In the spirit of World Down Syndrome Day, the Believe in the Build Benefit Gala aimed to breakdown stigmas associated with the disorder and unify supporters for establishing the first playhouse in North Central Florida. Through free educational, social, and therapeutic programs, the center will instill self-confidence in children and adults with Down syndrome. Judging from the high turnout and success of the event, there is no doubt that Gigi’s Playhouse made a statement that they are here to stay.
As the official event photographer, I wanted to make sure I captured every moment. Elegant, yet family friendly decor by Keith Watson productions cohesively flowed from the lobby and atrium area to the ballroom of Emerson Hall. Parents and their children arrived dressed in eveningwear. Live music and a DJ got everyone onto the dance floor. Even the food by Cacciatore Catering was Intsa-worthy. The night was perfectly crafted for both adults and kids to have a great time.
Speakers including GiGi’s Playhouse Gainesville President Mika, Vice President Lilly Bell, and Board member Troy Bell all spoke passionately and sincerely about their goals, hopes, and dedications to see their campaign to fruition.
It was especially wonderful to have The Gianni family in town for this Gala. Nancy and GiGi Gianni, the founder and inspiration for Gigi’s Playhouse, shared their incredible story of strength during their keynote address. They also gave their confidence in the Gainesville Board of GiGi’s Playhouse and the community, proclaiming that they “planted an important seed”.
Lily Bell, Vice President of Gigi’s Playhouse Gainesville, says their task is to continue to nurture that seed. The committee says they have already started making plans for next year’s gala and are now one-step closer to establishing a permanent location by June.
I feel a strong responsibility to donate my time and talents to raise awareness for such an astounding and noble cause. The photos of the event will tell a story from the night and help spread awareness of the group’s efforts to establish a playhouse in town and the significant impact it will have on individuals and families affected by down syndrome in all of North Central Florida.
The children and families are able to take part of all of the resources the centers offer free of charge. This is truly a charitable and benevolent work. And it takes a community to establish a center in their area and city. Down Syndrome is a barrier that affects many. I think the center will prove to be a great resource to the children and families in the Gainesville Area that would not go unnoticed by the community.