New GiGi's Playhouse underway; donations still needed

With the generosity of donors and the frantic work of more than a dozen construction workers, the new GiGi's Playhouse National Achievement Center is starting to show signs of life.

Scheduled to open Oct. 27 at 2350 Higgins Road in Hoffman Estates, the center will house programs for adults and children with Down syndrome, as well as national offices for the 10-year-old organization.

Drywall outlines the areas where learning labs, a gym, a multipurpose room and a play area will be built into the 10,000-square-foot space.

Drilling and hammering can be heard throughout, and the smell of paint lingers as Development Director Marc Portugal walks through the rooms, explaining the vision the group has for the center.

“We call this project 'Building a Dream,'” he said. “While the construction phase of Building A Dream ends on Oct. 27, the rest of the building continues.”

While the total cost of getting the center up and running is estimated at $800,000, Portugal noted the organization will need funding to run new programs, such as Hugs & Mugs, a retail store connected to the center that will sell keepsake mugs and provide internships to adults with Down syndrome.

“We need to continue building those programs not only so they are as effective as possible for our individuals and families, but so we can template these programs and give them to our other playhouses. That's going to take more time, it's going to take more research and it's going to take more money,” Portugal said.

Since opening the first GiGi's Playhouse on Golf Road in 2003, the organization has expanded to more than a dozen awareness and educational centers nationwide.

Portugal said the organization recently surpassed $500,000 in gifts toward construction.

Donations collected so far range from paint donations from Rust-Oleum and office furniture from Kraft to tutus and tights from Arabesque Dancewear and Yoga Boutique in Lake Forest and a substantial gift from the Foglia family.

Portugal said a private foundation has offered the organization a $250,000 grant, but to secure it GiGi's must take on a matching gift campaign.

He said the hope is that about half of the matching gifts will come from the organization's national executive board of directors, the new playhouse's advisory board and their networks.

The other half, he said, will hopefully come from the general public, local businesses, existing donors and families who use the playhouse.

For more about the National Achievement Center or to donate to the project, visit The grand opening will be from noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 27.

“Supporting GiGi's Playhouse is supporting the basic premise of positive belief in setting goals and working toward achieving anyone's greatest potential,” Portugal said. “It's supporting a community, and at large, a society, of greater acceptance.”

  Development Director Marc Portugal talks about work at the new GiGi’s Playhouse National Achievement Center in Hoffman Estates on Friday. JOE LEWNARD/
  Marc Portugal shows a room under construction at the new GiGi’s Playhouse National Achievement Center in Hoffman Estates Friday. JOE LEWNARD/
  Exterior view of construction on the new GiGi’s Playhouse National Achievement Center in Hoffman Estates Friday. JOE LEWNARD/
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