Wausau to be new location for Down Syndrome assistance program

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW)-- Back in September, the CI Pediatric Therapy Center opened up. They provide assistance to the child population in need of speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

"We are here to serve the kids and the community at hand," said Lauren Blume, Clinic Manager at CI Pediatric Therapy Center.

Shortly after they opened, they were approached by GiGi's Playhouse, which is a program that provides resources for those with Down Syndrome.

"Create a movement of global acceptance and really change the way the world perceives a Down Syndrome diagnosis," said Erica Erdman, president of GiGi's Playhouse Wausau.

"We are both here just to make the lives of families of kids who have special needs, easier," said Blume.

"I want a place where I feel like my loved one belongs," added Erdman, who has a child with Down Syndrome. "A place where they can come, get support, along with the family."

In Wisconsin, there are only locations in Milwaukee, Madison and Hudson. The goal for GiGi's to get up and running by Fall of 2019, and they'll share the space with CI Pediatric Therapy.

Right now, GiGi's is in the fundraising stage. They're 100-percent volunteer-based and don't charge families, to eliminate that financial barrier.

"Having a place like GiGi's really affords us to be able to go get resources that'll be helpful," said Jeff Raschka of Wausau, alongside his son Corbin. "And ultimately be able to do what's important which is to help their kids benefit, and grow, and develop."

"We've been to the one in Madison a few times," said Anna Borchardt of Stevens Point, with her daughter Emma White. "It's just super comfortable. You're not worried about anybody looking at you weird. Everybody's in the same boat."

GiGi's Playhouse's next step is building community awareness and building their family database.

There are 39 centers open around the world. The Wausau location will be one of 12 expected to open in 2019.

Erdman adds it will take about 30-35 thousand dollars to get the first year of programs up and running by, at least, next fall. And with some hope for a late April, early May opening.