When no one else is around and Sherri Helmond watches her 10-year-old daughter Katie bounce around The Little Gym, she remembers why she bought the children’s recreation and activity center on Richmond Road.
It doesn’t hurt when her daughter rushes up to her and exclaims, “I’m so happy that you bought The Little Gym,” which she has done regularly since Sherri became owner in June.
What little kid wouldn’t love the place.
The Little Gym packs developmentally appropriate play activities and fun for children 4 months to 12 years old into its 4,200 square-foot, brightly colored, clean and safe environment.
At the center of the Gym’s mission is a full schedule of parent-child and children-only classes that use physical activity as a conduit of a three-dimensional learning approach:
- “Get Moving” to foster flexibility, strength, balance and coordination.
- “Brain Boost” to nurture listening skills, concentration and decision making.
- “Citizen Kid” to promote sharing, teamwork, cooperation and leadership abilities.
Under the guidance of Program Director Kristin Kearns, The Little Gym offers 45-minute classes five days a week for toddlers and parents.
By age 3, children attend 1-hour classes by themselves and can select a combination of non-competitive dance, gymnastics and sports skills classes.
The Gym also offers birthday parties, summer camps and regular Parent Survival Nights when moms and dads can drop off their children for three hours on Friday for pizza and free play.
Research has shown that creative, age-appropriate physical activity can be a key to fostering confident, successful kids, which is one of the reasons Helmond bought the business.
“What I love about The Little Gym is that it is a non-competitive, nurturing place where children can develop at their own pace and build confidence,” Helmond said. “They can have fun while they are developing skills.”
Once kids visit the Gym, they are hooked. That’s the experience of Heather Bush, a UK professor of biostatistics and the mother of 3-year-old Beatrix, who has attended Little
Gym classes since she was 9 months old.
“She can’t wait to get through the doors,” Bush said. “This has been one of the best things we have done for her. It’s like an additional family for us.”
While her daughter delights in the classes, Bush appreciates the skills she is learning – even the most basic ones.
“She learned how to fall, which has made her a risk-taker,” Bush said. “She is always willing to try something new and that has made her confident. Every time she goes there, she gets something good out of the experience.”
For Dorcas Crenshaw and her daughter, the experience has been nothing short of miraculous. Danielle, 4, was born with spina bifida and first attended The Little Gym unable to walk on her own.
Two months later, she no longer needed her walker and suddenly was moving about independently.
“I was hooked as soon as I saw that,” Dorcas said. “She developed by leaps and bounds. She’s now up to the ballet and tap dance classes.
“The Little Gym has been behind us all the way and has been a blessing to our family.”
Such testimonials reinforce Helmond’s decision to become a business owner. From Paintsville, she graduated from EKU with an accounting degree and worked in the corporate world for 17 years.
Buying a business has been a family friendly decision.
“I have the flexibility as a mom to work from home if I need to and I can bring my daughter to work,” Helmond said.
“This gives us the quality of life our family needs.”
Besides, the dress code is much more relaxed. “Instead of heels and suits, I get to wear yoga pants to work every day,” Helmond said.
One more reason to love The Little Gym.