Veteran gymnasts mingled with newcomers for the 10th annual celebration, which aims to promote the ideals of physical fitness and community service to the country’s youth, said Heather Olson, director of preschool programming and summer camp, and coordinator of parties and special events.
“We are emphasizing physical fitness and inviting parents and their children who otherwise may not look to gymnastics,” Olson said.
Carly Patterson, an Olympian turned recording artist, is scheduled to visit the facility at 6 tonight.
The visit comes after Olympic gold medalist and “Dancing With the Stars” finalist Shawn Johnson — all 4 feet, 9 inches of her — visited the gym this spring and answered questions from adoring athletes on everything from her Olympic experiences, to her training, to nutrition and workout methods.
While the sport, thanks to the efforts of Johnson and her teammates last year, has grown, it’s important to sustain that especially as it heads into the drawn-out dark period where many Americans won’t be exposed to the sport, said assistant coach Sean Fitzpatrick, who’s also in charge of tumbling and recreation for boys.
The gym maintains a competitive program, Fitzpatrick said, and exposure to the community at large, especially new parents who want to start their children early, is important.
But as the recession continues to squeeze wallets, the day was also an opportunity for young twins Jamie and Oliver to try their hands before their mother, Katherine Jones, was made to begin her investment, she said.
The trio lunched outside the training facility discussing the sport’s merits, while inside a crew of young students began the exercise of identifying their favorite moves and what the sport means to them.
Allyson Jessen, in an essay she wrote about the gymnasium, has recently developed the goals of getting bigger and stronger.
“I also showed myself with many hearts coming out of my chest because I am very passionate about gymnastics,” Allyson wrote in an essay accompanying a self-portrait.
Friends Kalen and Kendal Fedail, Madison Hubbard and Leah Booth, all 11 or 12, recommended the sport as a supplement to other activities, such as volleyball, tennis and cheerleading.
“It teaches you discipline, how to stick with something and be committed,” Kendal said.
Madison said it’s also been instrumental in building her self-confidence.
“Some things are hard,” she said. “But they’re worth it.”