The Woolwich Gymnastics Club is set to celebrate 25 years in the community today (Saturday) with an open house and demonstration from 2-4 p.m. at their facility located at 97 Earl Martin Dr. in Elmira.
It will be an opportunity to thank the town for all its support and to encourage new gymnasts to join them for the upcoming season, said the club’s president.
“I am really proud of where we are,” said Nancy Halstead, who started out as a gymnast with the club when it first opened in 1987.
“I think it’s pretty awesome that I’ve been able to be with the club this long and watch its growth and see what it’s become, from the small club we started with to what we are today.”
When it began in ’87, the organization was named the Woolwich Cardinals Gymnastics Club – though the doors they opened weren’t actually their own, as they had to operate out of the gym at Park Manor Public School. The club earned its name after the “Birdland” area of the town the school was located in.
At the time the club only had a few staff members and students from the school who wanted to pass their love for gymnastics on to the area’s children. The club was incorporated in the mid-1990s and continues to operate as a non-profit today.
Three years after their formation, the club realized they had outgrown their space at Park Manor, and made the move to the small gymnasium of Elmira District Secondary School, where they ran programs four nights a week for children six years and up. In 2005, when membership grew to 250, the club also leased a 1,500-square-foot facility nearby for kids aged 18-months to five years of age.
In June 2006 the club surpassed 300 members, prompting another move to yet another larger facility. After discussions to move to the then-proposed Woolwich Memorial Centre fell through, they moved to their current location on Earl Martin Drive.
From those modest roots, the Woolwich Gymnastics Club has grown to more than 500 students and 20 coaches. In 2008, the organization was named the province’s top gymnastics club with fewer than 500 students, and in 2009 they captured the national prize as top club with fewer than 500 students.
Despite that success however, Halstead said the club relies on its countless volunteers, and they strive to maintain a family-friendly atmosphere.
“We’ve always maintained a recreational club. We don’t take many gymnasts to provincials or nationals and we don’t want to get into that world of gymnastics. Ours is based in the recreational programming and the interclub competition.”
The club is also holding registration for the upcoming season all next week, Monday to Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and next Satruday from 9 a.m. to noon.
For more information call the club at (519) 669-2227 or visit their website, www.woolwichgymnastics.com.