Charlotte nonprofit hoping to expand access to services for people with Down syndrome

CHARLOTTE — A nonprofit tutoring program helping kids and adults with Down syndrome is set start up again this week. GiGi’s Playhouse offers a variety of free services supporting 400 students a year in southwest Charlotte.

The tutoring sessions are paying off for 16-year-old Isabella Correa. She’s ready for the new school year with the help of GiGi’s Playhouse.

Ashley Hough, a volunteer with GiGi’s Playhouse has read with Isabella once a week for more than two years.

“She’s the most positive young lady,” Hough said. “I definitely see her confidence building. Her reading has improved. It’s really neat to see her progression and how quickly she can identify those site words.”

Backing from volunteers and donors keeps the program free to families. Next month, they’re hosting a fundraising event to finance the opening of two satellite spaces -- one in Statesville and another in west Charlotte -- that would expand access to their services.

Parents tell Channel 9 there’s a need for more opportunities for folks with Down syndrome.

“Their aren’t enough resources to help kids with special needs in our school systems and sometimes kids get left behind,” said Kevin Shirley, who’s 21-year-old son Kendall has Down syndrome.

GiGi’s Playhouse told us they could serve more students now, but they need more volunteers.

Isabella’s mom hopes others will see what a difference the program could make in other children’s lives.

“She’s more confident,” Maria Espinosa said. “What I like about GiGi’s is they do programs where she can be with friends, meet new people and feel part of the group.”

More information on the fundraiser for GiGi’s Playhouse can be found here.

>>> In the video at the top of this page, Channel 9 reporter Gina Esposito learned how the program makes a difference and how you can help it continue to grow.

(WATCH BELOW: Nonprofit program in Charlotte making difference by preparing kids for preschool)