Gigi’s Playground is named in loving memory of special education teacher, Gigi Spies.
Guillermina “Gigi” Spies devoted 9 years to The Center for Autism Education. She cared deeply for each
student and staff member, and always pushed others to do their best. Gigi’s passion for her work was
inspiring; she saw potential in every learner and was a light to every life she touched. May we all
remember to see the best in others, push one another to succeed, and always love like Gigi.
Contact: Hanne Hawkins
The Center for Autism Education Dedicates $230K Playground in Memory of Educator
St. PETERS, May 1, 2021 – The Center for Autism Education (CAE) will dedicate their new outdoor sensory and recreational center to beloved Special Education Teacher, Gigi Spies, who passed away from Covid-19 complications on January 1, 2021.
In the Spring of 2019, CAE officially launched their Play and Learn Campaign; the largest capital campaign in the agency’s history. The goal of this campaign was to raise $230K to build an outdoor sensory and recreational center for students. The instructional day facility had moved to a beautiful new location with significantly more space to continue to expand programming and serve more students in the community. The new building was equipped with everything they needed, but there was no outdoor recreational space. For students with autism and severe behavior, access to a safe recreational space is a necessity.
“When we provide engaging experiences for our children that are play and socially oriented, they have responses that we seek for our neurotypical children. The joy, the engagement, the play, the interactive component,” said Susan McGlade, CAE’s Occupational Therapist.
The students at CAE have unique sensory needs and the playground equipment is designed to cater to those needs. But the Play and Learn Campaign was about more than a playground. It was about providing a space for students to engage with peers and cultivate new friendships, a space for them to safely engage in the sensory stimulation they require to be successful (swinging, climbing, rocking, running, jumping, etc.), a space for them to learn the importance of physical fitness and activity, and finally, a space for them to play.
With the support of individuals and corporations in the Greater St. Louis philanthropic community, CAE successfully completed the campaign in November 2020, amidst a global pandemic. Shortly after, they suddenly lost their lead Special Education teacher to Covid-19.
Guillermina “Gigi” Spies devoted 9 years to The Center for Autism Education. She cared deeply for all of the students and staff members, and always pushed others to do their best. Gigi’s passion for her work was inspiring; she saw potential in every learner and was a light to every life she touched. Her life is a reminder to see the best in others, push one another to succeed, and to always love like she did.
“We want to make it better for our students, and we want everybody else to see that. It’s very satisfying… This is my passion. I was born to be in this type of population because I love every single one of them and I see their strengths in every single one of them. I feel like I’m making a difference, even if it’s a little one,” said the late Gigi Spies of her students at The Center for Autism Education.
A private ribbon cutting/dedication ceremony will be held on May 19th, at 6:30 PM and will be livestreamed to CAE’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/thecenterforautismeducation.
The Mission of The Center for Autism Education is to assure that every child, family and adult that we serve is provided the highest quality training in functional skills and behavior intervention in a respectful, positive and safe learning environment so that all reach their fullest potential, becoming successful, happy, and contributing members of the community and society at large.
For more information, visit www.teachautism.org