VESTAL, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – A founder of a local organization that serves people with Down Syndrome will be in attendance during President Biden’s State of the Union address.

Congressman Marc Molinaro has chosen Anna Bruce, a founder and board Vice President for GiGi’s Playhouse Southern Tier, as his special guest Tuesday evening.

Bruce, whose 11 year-old son Camden has Down Syndrome, was instrumental in bringing a GiGi’s Playhouse to Vestal back in 2019.

The non-profit is currently raising funds to move to a larger facility as it has already outgrown its current location next to JoAnn Fabrics on the parkway.

Molinaro is a champion for the rights of the disabled, having himself a daughter on the autism spectrum.

Bruce says the Southern Tier chapter, which operates as its own organization, was 8th out of 56 GiGi’s nationwide with 6,000 hours of program participation last year.

She says they have a motto for participants and volunteers alike: “Best of all.”

Bruce says that simply means doing a little better than the day before.

Founder Anna Bruce says, “We have a little guy who walked for the first time at GiGi’s. We had somebody who spoke their first words for the first time at GiGi’s. Or, they’ll be attending programming for several weeks or several months and then all of a sudden they’ll be able to do something that they’ve never done before.”

GiGi’s Southern Tier has been able to hire a paid site manager, but still relies heavily on volunteers, between 50 and 70 a month, many of them Binghamton University students.

GiGi’s is launching a fundraising campaign called “Believe in our Build” to raise between $600,000 and $800,000 toward building out the mall location with a large kitchen, gym area and class space for a hoped for November 1st opening.

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