Yes, once again, I know that’s not a real song.
A year ago, I wrote The Ballad of SenseAbility Gym. The post was about a vision. A dream. An idea of creating a space where all children and their families are welcomed and accepted.
A year ago, I wrote this:
It’s an original title for a brand new project of mine.
It’s perhaps the most important thing I’ve done since marrying my husband and starting my incredible family.
My very dear friend and I are opening a parent-led sensory gym. As a non-profit. For kids just like mine.
We’re calling it “SenseAbility Gym: A Sensory Gym for Sensational Kids“
The more we talked to people: parents of kids with special needs, parents of kids without special needs, therapists, teachers, you name it. Not one person told us it was a bad idea. In fact, they all said we had to do this.
We believe in the fact that all children deserve access to the types of therapeutic equipment used in their schools and their private occupational therapy clinics and we believe that parents need to interact with their children to learn what helps their child “feel better” and have fun. There are four important components to our mission.
- Community: SenseAbility Gym wants its members to feel welcome, and part of the special needs community.
- Safe Sensory Play: SenseAbility Gym wants parents of children with special needs to feel there is a safe place to bring their children for fun, exercise and sensory support.
- Acceptance: SenseAbility Gym will have an environment that recognizes that all special needs children are different and that all learning styles, personalities, and abilities are welcome.
- Support: SenseAbility Gym will be a place where families of special needs children can go to meet other families who share the same struggles.
We see the gym as a place not only for our kids and kids like ours to accommodate their sensory needs, but also as a place to build their social skills and interact with other children like them. We see the gym as a place where moms and dads can interact with parents just like them.
As Howie told me the other night: “SenseAbility Gym is a place where kids can learn to get along.”
We see it as an another piece of the support team helping families know they are not alone.
Then I wrote this:
I need you to tell people about us. Maybe you know a family who has a child with special needs in our area who could benefit from a membership at the gym. Maybe it’s your own family. Maybe you work for a company that is generous with community giving. Maybe you know children who need to raise money as a community service project and they would like to purchase a piece of equipment.
I need you – my friends and family – to help make this gym a reality. Not just for my kids or my friend’s kids.
But for mom who told me at our town’s Day In The Park that her daughter needs a place like this.
For the parents sitting in an Early Intervention family group right now wondering where they could find a safe place to meet once their kids turn three.
For the dad who is desperately looking for a way to connect with his autistic son, but can’t afford the play equipment his child needs.
And you came through. We had support come in from all over the country. People not only wanting to help us financially, but with advice. People who knew people in our area. People who wanted to open their own space in their own towns.
Thanks to you, we raised the money we needed to open the doors of SenseAbility Gym in February of this year.
That vision – that dream – for a community where everyone is accepted and welcomed came true. We may have created the physical space, but the over 200 children and families that we have met since then have made the vision a reality.
I could write and write about this amazing place, but the stories aren’t really mine to tell. They are theirs:
This place has given me a purpose. It has connected me with the most incredible business partner and friend. It has created a space where my kids are welcomed and accepted and known by name.
The families who come in have become my second family.
Thank you to every one of you who has supported us in this journey. Our community is so grateful.
I’m not very good at asking for money, but I have to. SenseAbility Gym relies on private and corporate donations and grants to stay open. No one at the gym takes a salary for working there. We keep our membership fees low so every family can afford to come.
To do that, we need your support. Every dollar goes right back into the gym – towards new equipment purchases, our rent and insurance, and programming costs for our free special needs yoga classes, social skills/friendship groups and parent meetings.