Youth Gymnastic studio in need of a new home in order to continue serving the community
Rising Star Youth Training Center owner, Cammy Winder, wants the community to know that the gym needs help.
“If it’s worth it to you, it’s worth it to me to keep fighting for,” said Winder, who has been running the training center since 2015.
Rising Star is housed in a leased industrial building on W. First Street in Craig, but the gym has been asked to vacate the building on July 1. According to Winder, the current lease goes through December 2022 and an early end to the lease doesn’t give the gym a lot of time to find a new space. The landlord did not respond to a request for comment.
Wonder said the biggest challenge is finding a space big enough for the training center’s activities. Rising Star offers year-round gymnastics, ninja training and cheerleading for 125-150 local youth.
“We’ve looked at every building in town,” Winder said. “I have gone into buildings just for the sake of looking, just to keep this going.”
With the upcoming need to vacate their space, Winder feels like she’s explored all of the local options. The space next to Big O’Tires in the mall could be big enough, but it doesn’t have some amenities the center will need such as bathrooms.
There are other spaces that might have amenities, but the 42 foot by 42 foot training mats might have to be cut to fit. The mat size is regulated for competitions, so cutting them would make the training center ineligible to host competitions.
Competitions are not the only priority for the training gym, but they are a component that youth would miss out on if the gym were to downsize into a smaller space, Winder explained.
The price is another issue. Winder said the last two years have done a number on the training center’s finances. COVID-19 restrictions required them to hire more staff and reduce class sizes, increasing operating expenses.
Community members and gym parents have rallied together to explore another option: constructing a new building. This would take more work and resources, but could yield the best results.
Winder has found a prefabricated metal building frame and a suitable piece of land to purchase. This option appears to be within an attainable price range for the training center, but there are other costs associated with new construction.
“It’s imperative that we save this gym and find a place for it to be because this community needs it.” said Jesse Jenkins, a local middle school teacher and parent who also occasionally works part time at Rising Star’s front desk.
Jenkins’ three children participate in the Rising Star programs, none of which are offered anywhere else in town if the center were to be shut down.
“My two daughters compete through the program; it’s a big part of their life,” Jenkins said. “The nearest place to do that would be Steamboat, which just isn’t practical for us because of the timing after school and work.”
It’s not just because of the chances to compete that parents and youth feel adamant about keeping the training center open.
“I want people to know that it’s not just a youth training center. Cammy and the coaches are huge about spreading body positivity, rising up, helping each other out and being of service,” Jenkins said.
There are many ways the training center promotes giving back. This winter the Rising Star cheer team shoveled driveways to help out people in the community, and the training center has helped with other service projects in the community.
Rising Star provides programs for youth from newborns to teenagers, and the training center has opportunities for parents to get involved as well. The baby and me program is open to ages newborn to kindergarten and is a chance for moms with young children to get together.
Coach-led classes start at age 3 or for potty trained children where parents can stay and watch. From there, classes progress for youth until they are 13 and can become junior coaches in training to mentor younger students.
Jenkins’ oldest daughter is a National Honor Society student at Craig Middle School and was able to fulfill her community service hours by volunteering at the gym. Parents can also volunteer at the training center in order to offset program tuition if needed.
“There’s so many of us who volunteer there just because it’s such an amazing place to go,” Jenkins said. “It’s a great place to go that’s safe for kids and age appropriate.”
Jenkins also explained it’s not just about the sport, it’s also about mental health for youth. The training center has had situations where youth have been struggling with mental health crises and luckily had the gym to go to and positive adults to sit with them.
Winder has also opened the training center to youth in foster care for free so they have a safe place where they can go. The coaches and many parents are vested in the community. Many of the coaches are local teachers who also have children in the programs.
“Our gym has been incredibly blessed for the people who walk in and want to be a part of it,” Winder said.
When Winder was first getting Rising Star started, there were several instrumental people who got involved and helped shape the gym culture. One of the original coaches was a level nine state champion who helped Winder get established for competing.
Elizabeth Kilmer-Sterling, a local certified nurse midwife, was another volunteer who had a significant impact. Sterling spent her spare time volunteering at the gym, but was really more interested in making sure young girls have a positive body image and are being taught they can do anything they want to.
Rising Star is also a training home for gymnast Jessica Womble, who has become well known in the region for competing at state less than a year after a car accident that claimed her left leg. Womble resumed her gymnastic practice shortly into her recovery and quickly became a role model for her bravery and determination.
“We’ve just always had the right people walk in the door,” Winder said.
It’s the same spirit that the training center is hoping to carry into the next phase of its operations. Jenkins has been sending out letters of interest to funders to potentially secure grant funding for the project.
Rising Star will hold its annual Spring Fling program at 5:20 p.m. May 26 and 27. Youth have learned floor and bar routines for the program and the performances will be followed with awards. There will be a $5 entry fee, and all proceeds will go to support summer operations for the gym.
A dedicated bank account at Yampa Valley Bank has been opened for the Rising Star Training Center for anyone who wishes to make donations to help secure a new space.
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