Empowering Dreams: Children from GiGi’s Playhouse to Cheer on Men’s Basketball

The Stony Brook men’s basketball team will host 40 members of the Patchogue location of GiGi’s Playhouse as they take on the University of Delaware on March 2. Children will have the opportunity to meet the players and walk onto the court.

GiGi’s Playhouse was created 21 years ago as an awareness campaign surrounding Down syndrome, but transformed into an achievement center with 58 locations nationwide. It works with people with Down syndrome of all ages and their families to provide support, training, tutoring, physical therapy, speech therapy, social interaction programs, and career skills. Classes are all free and the Playhouse relies on volunteer support.

Karen Drago is the executive director of GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island, the only Down syndrome achievement center on Long Island. She said families are excited about the upcoming game.

“One of our most successful programs here is our fitness programs and our family fun events,” said Drago, who holds a master’s degree in social work from Stony Brook. “Our participants love when they have new visitors or get to meet new people. The basketball game will be a great experience for them.”

The event was coordinated by Heather Banoub, assistant vice president of community relations, who recently joined the Stony Brook community. “Beginning a relationship with GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island has been one highlight of my time with Stony Brook University thus far,” said Banoub.

“The organization does such important work, serving the Long Island community by providing programming and support for individuals with Down syndrome and their families,” Banoub added. “Hosting the group at a Seawolf basketball game is just one way the Community Relations team plans to partner with GiGi’s Playhouse. We see many opportunities to have our students engage and volunteer with the organization.”

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