HILLSBOROUGH – Over the last five years, Hillsborough Township has been home to GiGI’s Playhouse, a nationwide organization that offers free educational services for children and adults with Down syndrome or special needs.
The only New Jersey location has been supported by the Hillsborough community over the years, especially from Hillsborough’s own Pinnacle Health and Fitness.
Even before GiGi’s Playhouse opened, Pinnacle Health and Fitness had lended a helpful hand to the organization, sponsoring an annual charity 5K race to raise money for the organization.
The gym continued to show its support for GiGi’s Playhouse by running a special virtual plankathon on April 26 to raise donations for the special needs program.
“It was a great event by Pinnacle Health and Fitness to bring the community together to benefit us,” said GiGi’s Playhouse Hillsborough Manager Liz Kepniss. “We love Pinnacle Health and Fitness. They are one of our biggest supporters. We’re so grateful for the contributions we received.”
The virtual plankathon idea was brought to Kepniss by Lisa Medawar, a senior director at Pinnacle Health. Medawar thought the event would be a great way to bring the community together in a healthy way, while showing support to GiGi’s Playhouse.
“It was a great quick event to bring people in our community together,” Medawar said. “It was exciting to see people working so hard to support GiGi’s Playhouse. All that energy will help our community stay healthy and help everyone during these tough times right now.”
The virtual plankathon was set up by Medawar on the online application Zoom where people held a plank for five minutes.
People had the option to switch to different plank positions during the five minutes or hold the plank as long as they could, said Medawar.
Kepniss said participants donated from $5 to $100 toward the cause.
“No donation is too small,” she said.
There were between 80-100 people who participated in the plankathon, and GiGi’s Playhouse received 47 donations.
Hillsborough residents and others still have the opportunity to participate in the event, Medawar said. Pinnacle Health and Fitness will post the previously held plankathon on Facebook and will promote an upcoming watch party for people to participate in sometime this week.
As of April 27, the virtual plankathon helped GiGi’s Playground raise $1,652, Kepniss said. People can go to the Pinnacle Health and Fitness Facebook Page for more information on how to donate to the GiGi’s Playhouse cause and how to participate in the next virtual plankathon.
The main purpose behind the virtual plankathon to support GiGI’s Playhouse for Pinnacle Health and Fitness was knowing the organization was not able to hold its annual “I Have a Voice” Gala this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The gala helps GiGi’s Playhouse secure more donations towards its programs. GiGi’s Playhouse runs only on grants and donations, Kepniss said.
“GiGi’s Playhouse is such a great organization,” Medawar said. “They always rise up. We are so proud to be a part of this event to help them raise money to help the people in their program.”
GiGi’s Playhouse is currently holding services for its students virtually through the company’s nationwide programs because of COVID-19. Each GiGi’s Playhouse branch is privately owned and holds its own programs and style of services.
Kepniss said it has been nice for her students to interact with children from all over the country in these programs and great that GiGi’s Playhouse is still finding ways to help those with special needs during the pandemic.
After seeing the community support that her branch got during the virtual plankathon, Kepniss said she is excited for the opportunities that lie in the future with more people finding out about GiGi’s Playhouse and the services they provide.
“These events open the door for more people that don’t know who we are to see what we’re all about,” Kepniss said. “This could bring in new volunteers and help us add more people with Down syndrome or other special needs into our program.”