For the next month, ‘Mija, Yes you can’ project to join forces with GiGi’s Playhouse of El Paso

EL PASO, Texas– Much like many events and organizations, COVID-19 has impacted GiGi’s Playhouse of El Paso. The organization depends on funds raised through events, but due to the ongoing pandemic, the organization had to postpone its primary fundraiser the “I have a voice Gala”. 

That’s where the local women’s empowerment project ‘Mija, Yes You Can’ is stepping in. For the next month, profits made from ‘Mija, yes you can’ T-shirts will go straight to GiGi’s Playhouse of El Paso. 

‘Mija, Yes You Can’ just made its first large-sum donation to UMC’s Compassionate Care Fund, and now the organization said it’s proud to team up with another local nonprofit in need during these trying times.

GiGi’s Playhouse is nonprofit organization aimed at increasing positive awareness of Down Syndrome as well as empowering local residents with Down syndrome, their families and the community. GiGi’s playhouse provides free programs that are educational and therapeutic to those with Down syndrome from birth through adulthood.

During these difficult times, many El Pasoans have answered the call to help out our community. Now is another opportunity to help out our neighbors. So, let us introduce you to the Mija behind GiGi’s Playhouse of El Paso and give you more information on this great organization in our community.

Maggie Morales-Moody: Executive Director, GiGi’s Playhouse El Paso

Maggie and her oldest daughter, Melissa.

Tell us a little bit about your family:

My husband and I married almost 45 years ago in the Socorro mission. He has been a state district judge for over 30 years and I retired as a teacher 5 years ago. We are blessed to be the parents of 4 exceptional children: Our first born, Melissa, is the guiding light in our family. She was born with Down syndrome and continues to inspire us all. Jimmy is clinical director for Cobalt Rehabilitation Hospital and is a practicing physical therapist with a specialty in traumatic brain injury treatment. Joe is legal counsel for WestStar Bank and is has represented District 78 in the Texas House of Representatives since 2009 and is currently speaker pro tempore of the Texas House. Our youngest, Emily, received her medical degree from Paul L. Foster School of Medicine and is completing her residency in pediatrics at UNM Children’s Hospital next month. She plans to return to El Paso to serve her community. Our family was made even more complete with our daughters-in-love Suzy Moody, counselor at Mesita Elementary School and Adrianne Moody, photographer and co-founder of MOB Families for El Paso in addition to our son-in-love Matthew, who works magic with IT and websites! The blessings have continued with our five awesome grandsons and one amazing granddaughter! Life is great!

What is GiGi’s Playhouse?

GiGi’s Playhouse was created to be an inspirational and dedicated place for families to celebrate their child and benefit from free, purposeful programs. GiGi’s Playhouse is something different to everyone. For some, it may be family support, an educational experience, community awareness, a hug, a party, informational network, or a self-esteem boost — but for all, it is a place to belong! The vision for GiGi’s Playhouse is to see a world where individuals with Down syndrome are accepted and embraced in their families, schools, and communities. Having a place in the community, not as a separate campus, but facing and engaging the community, where we can change perceptions and inspire people to see the azazing potential of individuals with Down syndrome. GiGi’s offers over 30 therapeutic, educational and career development programs free of cost to families. From a prenatal diagnosis to career skills, we make a lifetime commitment to remain by their side.

Why did you want to bring a GiGi’s Playhouse to the El Paso community?

As parents of a child with Down syndrome, we have always been concerned with the lack of resources available to the Down syndrome community. GiGi’s Playhouse focuses on spreading positive and accurate information about what Down syndrome is and what it is not. It empowers families with all the tools their child needs to succeed by providing educational, therapeutic, and career development programs delivered in a way that individuals with Down syndrome learn best.

How has the COVID-19 impacted GiGi’s Playhouse?

The unfortunate tragedy of the COVID-19 virus has deeply affected GiGi’s Playhouse El Paso, just like many other non-profit organizations. We were forced to close our facility to protect our individuals with Down syndrome, our volunteers and employees. In addition, our primary fundraiser, the “I Have a Voice” Gala scheduled for March 28th was postponed. While we have remained operational and continue to offer programs via distance learning, we still have rent, salaries, and utilities to pay.

How has GiGi’s been able to create ways for families to still use programs while practicing social distancing?

Our families were devastated when we had to shut down our Playhouse programs, but GiGi’s bounced back. Within days of the shutdown, the GiGi’s team launched GiGi’s At Home Virtual Programming. Our At Home Virtual Programming now offers nearly 100 LIVE and On Demand programs, plus lesson plans, resources and support. We are serving families where they are today, in their homes. We are using Go To Meetings for our programs. Many of our programs continue as group programs but our literacy and math tutoring is still being provided as a one-on-one tutoring model. Our tutors are dedicated and have all chosen to continue to work with our students. There are programs for every age group and are designed to be purposeful.

Finish the phrase: “Mija, yes you can……do anything you set your mind to. Just BELIEVE in yourself! GiGi’s believes!!!”

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