FARGO — Although a fire destroyed GiGi's Playhouse in south Fargo nearly a week before, pain from the loss was still fresh Monday, May 17, as officials with the organization viewed the aftermath of the May 11 blaze.

"We lost everything," said Heather Lorenzen, executive director of the Fargo GiGi's Playhouse, an organization she described as 99% volunteer-driven.

Lorenzen said the organization plans to continue operating at a physical location, but whether that will be in a new space or in the strip mall location destroyed by the fire on the 3200 block of 20th Street South in Fargo remained unknown Monday.

Lorenzen and Kellie Hamre, president of the organization's board of directors, said insurance will cover some of the loss but not everything, and they said fundraising efforts are underway.

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The organization is accepting donations in several ways. If someone wants to donate by check, checks written out to GiGi's Playhouse may be dropped off at any local Vision Bank location. Donations are also being accepted online at the organization's website: www.gigisplayhouse.org/fargo.

Hamre said while no specific overall goal has been set, millions of dollars will be needed to get the organization back on its feet.

GiGi's Playhouse promotes an inclusive environment for people of all ages who have Down syndrome and their families.

Programs, which are free to families, help in the development of motor movements, literacy, math and basic life skills.

The Fargo Playhouse serves about 185 families. Many of those families are from the Fargo-Moorhead area, though others are located all over North Dakota and parts of Minnesota and South Dakota.

Lorenzen said the Fargo site lost all of its physical assets in the fire, including a state-of-the-art rock wall and a dance studio.

It isn't known whether the space the organization was leasing in the south Fargo strip mall will be their home again in the future, but she said they will most likely look elsewhere.

When the pandemic struck about a year ago, Lorenzen said, GiGi's Playhouse moved its efforts online, and families were able to make use of the organization's programming to some degree.

The Playhouse was in the process of moving programming back to its physical location when the fire happened.

"Families were so ecstatic; we were really excited to use our space and have our families come in," Lorenzen said, adding an optimal learning environment is one where individuals can socialize with their peers and learn from the therapists that volunteer their time.

Hamre, whose 7-year-old daughter has Down syndrome and utilizes GiGi's Playhouse, said as a family they are grateful they were able to have one on-site experience this year before the fire destroyed the building.

Virtual programming has its benefits and served families well during the pandemic, Hamre said, but a physical site offers something special for families, including her own.

"She was so looking forward to coming back and walking through those doors," she said, referring to her daughter.

Hamre and Lorenzen said GiGi's Playhouse expects to be in a new location by fall.

"We're not going anywhere," Lorenzen said. "We're still here for our families. It just looks a little different right now."

The Fargo Fire Department said Monday the cause of the blaze remains under investigation.