LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB)-- Kentucky Gymnastics Academy has been a staple in Louisville for 35 years, teaching kids what it takes to be a champion. But now it's opening its doors to even more kids regardless of their abilities.
Ten-year-old Bryston Anderson climbs onto the balance beam like he's been doing it for years. But this is his first time in the gym at Kentucky Gymnastics Academy, a moment for he and his brother and sisters to just be kids, without fear.
"It's safe because you can't really bang your head on a lot of things," said his brother, Brayden.
That's something his mom loves to see.
"So often as special needs parents, it's easier to just sit at home with them and keep them in their safe environment, but they need to get out and experience other things," said Brayden and Bryston's mom, Diane Anderson who has 10 kids. Five, including Bryston and Brayden, have special needs.
"They have different genetic conditions of no fault of their own and they all three have epilepsy which in itself is a challenge," said Anderson.
But at KGA, she feels like her kids have a place to go and belong.
"They don't have to have fear of not keeping up with other children, not being able to do things maybe their peers can do," said Anderson.
Owner Shannon Wickel took over KGA a few years ago and says opening the doors to all kids, regardless of ability, was a dream from the beginning.
"I think gymnastics should be for everyone and I feel like this gym was kind of a gift for me and it's my responsibility to be able to give back to the community," said Wickel.
She's starting by offering open gym once a week for kids with special needs.
"Having a space that is dedicated just to them," she said.
Here, they can run, jump, and play freely and safely and still have qualified coaches to help kids learn gymnastics. For Anderson, she jumped at the chance to get her kids in the gym.
"It's fun because they have high energy but sometimes it's hard for them to burn it off in a safe environment. And this is a great, safe fun place for them to learn and explore," said Anderson.
Wickel hopes to eventually offer classes specifically for kids with different abilities and scholarships so more kids can take advantage of the gym. For now though, she knows she's on the right track when she sees first-timers hit the floor.
"They come in, their eyes light up. You'd think it was Disney World that I brought them to," said Wickel.
Open gym for special needs kid is on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and costs $5 per kid. More information can be found on the KGA website.
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