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River City Inclusive Gymnastics offers classes for all athletes

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 4:05 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Thursday was golden in gymnastics as Sunisa Lee won the women’s all-around competition for the USA, just days after superstar Simone Biles pulled out of the competition to focus on her mental health.

The Olympics is always inspiring young athletes to try sports.

One gym is training gymnasts right here in RVA; though they are not known on a national stage, the results at River City Inclusive Gymnastics are just as life-changing.

The gym serves kids and adults on all levels of ability. Many kids here have been hanging around the gym for a while, like 14-year-old Rocksen Wylie.

“I do gymnastics,” said Rocksen Wylie, a gymnast. “Even when I sit on the couch, I do a handstand.”

Wylie loves River City Inclusive Gymnastics, a highlight of his week, and it’s a place he’s really grown as an athlete.

“I do like climbing the ropes and doing the styrofoam pit,” said Wylie.

It was a dream program for former special education teachers.

“We want everyone to know, we structure our program for these individuals,” said Mike McGrath, who leads the program. “An individual that has down syndrome or somebody that has autism, we invite everyone. We want everyone to participate.”

The gym provides an inclusive program that parents say, can’t just be found anywhere.

“They know what they’re doing,” said parent Neil Patel. “They know this kind of child, this kind of, the needs of children like this, this kind of spectrum. And they’ve customized their routines and what they demand of them in that way and then the staff just seems to really care. And really pay attention to the students. I don’t feel like my son is another number. "

“As a parent of a child with special needs there aren’t that many options,” explained mother Joanna Wylie. “Swim team and basketball, those have too many directions. Too much noise, too much activity. This he can do at his own pace.”

The focus here is still athletic achievement and fun, but also the opportunity for kids to participate in sport and work hard toward goals. That part is gold.

Listing the ways the program has helped his son, Patel said it, “increase in his self-confidence, increase in his self-esteem, increase in his upper body strength his flexibility (and) motor skills.”

Whatever the participants need to succeed, this gym meets them.

“We provide one on one coaching for everyone as long as they need it,” said McGrath. “So the idea is, we want everyone to be as independent as possible, but as long as they need one on one assistance, they get one on one assistance.”

Proving Mike and this gym have “tumbled” into something quite special.

Another special part of this gym is that it turns no one away. If your child wants to participate, they work to find a way, and it’s an affordable cost, with scholarships available.

Learn more here by visiting River City Inclusive Gymnastics’s website.

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