ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – GiGi’s Playhouse Rochester will hold its 2022 “Under the Sea” gala on Saturday, March 19 at the Hyatt Regency in Rochester.

GiGi Playhouse Rochester President Jennifer Bustamante and Vice President Kim Guerrieri discussed the event and building a sense of comfort for families Wednesday during News 8 at noon.

“With the recent mask update, I think a lot of families feel more comfortable coming back to the Playhouse,” Bustamante said. “We made the transition to remote learning very quickly and still had a ton of participants who still needed our services. We definitely pivoted and made everyone comfortable inside the Playhouse and offered things to families that weren’t as comfortable.”

Since moving to Rochester five years ago, GiGi’s Playhouse has become a valuable resource for people with Down syndrome and their families. “We have over 400 families now,” Guerrieri said. “Our speaking program has really taken off. She sees about 38 to 40 students a week for an hour. Our literacy program has a maximum of 23 students. Our math students too – GiGi’s Fit classes are always booked now – everyone needs that extra extra now that we’ve lost those few years of schooling on Zoom. Our children find it a little harder to learn through Zooming, so we made the switch and now we just have an extra extra for them.

“Under the Sea” will mark GiGi’s first fundraising gala in two years. “We’ll have the light-up dance floor,” Bustamante said. “We are going to do a one-hour presentation in honor of many volunteers and our participants. Then we will have casino tables and dancing. It’s going to be a wonderful evening. We will also have a silent auction and a live auction available online if people cannot make it to the event itself.

All programs and services at GiGi’s Playhouse Rochester are offered free of charge, so gala proceeds are essential. “This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Guerrieri noted. “It funds all of our employees, pays for it, and just keeps the Playhouse open every day. We’d love to offer this for free to our attendees, but we actually need funding to make sure we can continue to do this.

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