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Nancy Gianni and her daughter GiGi.

BAY VILLAGE

GiGi’s Playhouse, an organization in Lakewood dedicated to supporting children with Down syndrome, is hosting the innagural 5k race fundraiser this summer in Bay Village.

The Cleveland Dash For Down Syndrome will raise money for the organization’s supplies and equipment. The event will begin at 9 a.m. June 5 in Cahoon Park.

“This is part of a larger event we’re doing called the GiGiFit Acceptance Challenge,” said Lizz Maxwell, the organization’s site director. “Our goal is to get people active and promote universal acceptance for people with different capabilities.”

The 5k will span several neighborhoods in Bay Village. Runners or walkers will move along Cahoon Road, Osborn Road, Dwight Drive, and Lincoln Road before circling back to the park. The event will also be held virtually so that people can participate at their own pace.

The roads on the route will be closed during the run, said organizer Jay Toole.

To maintain health guidelines, runners and walkers will be released in waves to start the run. Once runners or walkers are released, they can take their masks off. Masks are required before and after the race, and there are no gatherings afterward.

The entry fee is $35 for ages 16 and older, $15 for ages 5 to 15 and free for children younger than 5, or those who have Down syndrome. Participants will receive gifts for signing up, which include shirts. Those runners in the top three for male or female will receive custom sugar cookies.

“This is a safe way to gather and support an organization that provides great services to those in need,” Toole said. “It brings us together over a common cause.”

GiGi’s Playhouse was founded in 2003 by Nancy Gianni to support children with Down syndrome like her daughter, GiGi. Now, there are 52 locations internationally and the organization helps more than 30,000 people of all ages with Down syndrome, according to its website.

The organization offers therapeutic and educational programs for children with Down syndrome. They also offer an education liaison who assists families with any questions or concerns pertaining to their child education. For adults, the program offers career assistance programs to find and maintain jobs, Maxwell said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Down syndrome continues to be the most common chromosomal disorder. Each year, about 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome, about 1 in 700 babies.

There are 450,000 people with Down syndrome living in the U.S. alone. According to GiGi's Playhouse, over 2 million people face this diagnosis every day.

“This is a great way to come out with friends and family and show your support for a good cause,” Maxwell said.

Contact this reporter at akamczyc@westlifenews.com or 216-307-6614.

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