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GiGi’s Playhouse in Tinley hosts vendor fair

It wasn’t a hard sell to drive community members out to support an event that aims to create awareness for GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Center, a nonprofit organization that offers educational and therapy programs for families and individuals with Down syndrome.

The event—which was held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 at Zion Lutheran Church in Tinley Park—provided an opportunity for area mothers turned entrepreneurs and members of the playhouse’s Tinley chapter to showcase their work, products and companies’ mission to attendees, and the story kicks off with Gina Buffone.

Buffone, a New Lenox resident, is a consultant for a clothing line LuLaRoe.

“I decided to start it because I would really like to spend more time at home with my girls,” Buffone said.

She noted her 11-month-old daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome in September 2015.

“Before I even had my daughter, GiGi’s Playhouse was just such a phenomenal part of my life,” she recalled of looking to the group for help during he pregnancy. “It took away the fear, it brought on the excitement and they’ve been alongside me this entire journey since I’ve had her.”

And seeing people come to the fair makes the day so much more meaningful, Buffone added.

“It’s remarkable; it just gives me a goose bump thinking about it,” she said. “That’s really another reason why I’ve chosen this business. It’s because there’s so many opportunities to give back to the community. I’ve already done events for Lularoe, and I’ve been able to donate proceeds to go to GiGi’s Playhouse. Knowing today, that that’s exactly what we’re doing is the best thing ever.”

Diane Husar, founder of GiGi’s Playhouse in Tinley, said the idea of having the event made sense for the organization’s parents.

“A lot of our moms are small business owners,” she said. “It was an idea to first off do a fundraiser for GiGi’s, but also to promote moms who are trying to create a living.”

More than 15 vendors were present at the event. As for proceeds, vendors donated $25 to host a table and some of their products.

Laurie Cepkauskas, of Homer Glen, came to the fair to not only represent Pampered Chefs, a company centered on selling cooking utensils, but to share with others her own experience of GiGi’s.

“I know that they do so much in the community, not just for me and my family, alone, but they do,” Cepkauskas said. “There’s always free events and classes. Everything they do is free. To come here and help support them and myself and other moms in this community, it’s really inspiring.”

Cepkauskas explained all of the Pampered Chef products, which includes an assortment of mixers, makers and kits, displayed at her station are meant to get kids excited about preparing food in the kitchen, and the fair gives her an opportunity to create exposure for her business and highlight GiGi’s.

“My daughter had two open heart surgeries at a very young age,” Cepkauskas said. “She has more open heart surgeries to go. GiGi’s has helped put me in touch with other moms and the best support group, just connecting and reaching out. They’ve always been there.”

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