Thursday, December 2, 2021

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WOWO): An organization dedicated to helping young adults with Down Syndrome be more independent will be the recipient of this year’s WOWO Penny Pitch effort.

WOWO Program Director Mike Ragz and Fort Wayne’s Morning News host Kayla Blakeslee announced today that GiGi’s Playhouse had been chosen out of dozens of qualified northeast Indiana 501(c)3 not-for-profits to benefit from this year’s 74th annual WOWO Penny Pitch.

“Gigi’s Playhouse has such a strong imprint on Fort Wayne, not only enriching the lives of the Down Syndrome Families in their program but also making sure those kids give back and can become positive role models to everyone in our community and inspire us all to lead fulfilling lives,” Ragz said.

In 2003, GiGi’s Playhouse founder Nancy Gianni launched the first Down Syndrome Achievement Center in suburban Chicago in honor of her daughter, GiGi, and other children like here. The effort has grown to 50 locations worldwide, including Fort Wayne in 2015, where founding board members Doug and Cindy Atkinson faced a similar situation with their granddaughter, Charlotte.

In the five years after GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne was launched, they have helped over 300 area families and the Fort Wayne branch offers a unique Career Development program called GiGi U, as well as the Genesis Health Bar, which offers GiGi U students the opportunity to get hands-on experience working with customers directly.

The organization plans to use Penny Pitch funding toward expanding both of those programs through the purchase of a 15-passenger multipurpose van to transport GiGi’s Ambassadors to and from the Health Bar, GiGi U, and other career opportunities, as well as staffing drivers for the van.

The 74th annual WOWO Penny Pitch will officially begin fundraising efforts at the 2021 Christmas on Broadway event on November 19th, followed soon after by a collaboration with the Fort Wayne Komets at the annual Bob Chase Memorial Game on Thanksgiving Day, November 25th. The annual two-day radiothon will take place on December 9th and 10th, live at Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne.

The History of Penny Pitch: 

Since 1948, WOWO has asked people throughout Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan to contribute pennies, nickels, dimes or more to help families within the WOWO listening area.

Penny Pitch began after World War II when a simple request came to WOWO to help a young quadriplegic buy a special typewriter so he could pursue a writing career.

A request was made over the air for listeners to donate their pennies. The response was so overwhelming that more than enough was raised to help the young man.

Thus, Penny Pitch was born.

Over the next few years, momentum grew as the Tri-State area adopted Penny Pitch as their own local charitable effort. Each year, local families were chosen as the recipients of Penny Pitch.

Funds continued to grow until it became necessary to incorporate Penny Pitch into a non-profit corporation providing benefits for those who contribute large amounts.

Now, over 70 years after the first Penny Pitch began, the corporation provides grants to qualified not-for-profit organizations that serve disadvantaged people in the Fort Wayne, Allen County and Northeast Indiana region.

As the longest-running local charity benefiting area families, Penny Pitch is loved by listeners who give generously every year.

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