By Bobbie Wallinger
The Carona-19 Virus has hit our community with a huge wallop. Not only have we remained inside for over two months but many of us have been out of work during that time losing much needed income.
Adults have been faced with having their youngsters home 24-7 with few opportunities to explore entertainment and having to face home schooling for the first time. Parents, many of whom feel unprepared to serve as teachers in a home setting filled with distractions such as keeping the family dog from literally eating the kid’s homework.
No cheer or gymnastics. No karate, dance or even tumbling classes. No activities to help build self-esteem. In summation, the period of March 16th to June 16th has really been a bummer.
But one Recreation/Education, GymStars program has risen from the ashes with a new and exciting way to resume classes for the nearly 1200 hundred youngsters who have been receiving instruction at the Parkwood’s Shopping Center for over the last two decades.
GymStars was the creation of Bob and Casey Tanon who returned to Stockton after a two year assignment in Pennsylvania where Bob was a Banker. Their girls, Jennifer and Megan had participated in gymnastics and dance in the East, but were unable to find a more comprehensive program in Stockton. After a year of research and planning, the couple decided to, “jump” in feet first by leasing the 20,000- sq. ft. facility which previously had been a large grocery store.
The reopened business staffed with professional athletes and several family members prepared to open the multi-faceted enterprise that would include training in dance, gymnastics, tumbling, cheer, and karate. Preparing a well thought out advertising campaign. The family had a sign-up list of 350 students prior to theJuly, 1999 opening, and prior to closing during Covid-19 quarantine the active number of enrollees topped 1,200.
The entire Tanon Family including daughter Jennifer Johnson, Vice-President of GymStars, sister,Megan Wofford, General Manager and the amazing management team of 10 along with consultation with the 30 instructors and coaches mapped out the plans of how to continue instruction of the children through the use 0f both video tapes as well as live stream instruction. The next task was to re-design the facility to accommodate the need for social distancing for staff, students and parents who like to observe their children during practice.
With safety as the most important component of the project, vice president Jennifer Johnson shared “Everyone who enters the building has a temperature check and has a wellness survey, as well as sanitizing the bottoms of shoes and application of hand sanitizer “.
When asked if parents have shown reluctance to returning to the program, she suggested I interview some of the parents. Parent Jonna Walker was eager to respond about how well the program works and that the “use of face masks for everyone when they come coupled with the color coding of designated areas for the children is excellent”. Mrs. Walker has 3 youngsters attending ranging in age from 3 to 10 years. “I love this program and have been a GymStar parent for eight years. The staff relates to all of us like family. I would recommend these classes to anyone. My daughter’s self- esteem and confidence has improved 100% as a result of her training.”
I had the chance to share a conference call with both mom and dad, Tom and Andrea Moccia who heaped praise on staff and management alike. Daughter Kinsey has attended for 14-years and is now a member of the competition team traveling throughout the State of California and Nevada. Tom stated his daughter has not only gained greater self- confidence but has thrived due to the atmosphere of team building and appreciating the collaborative spirit instilled in the kids.”
Tom and Andrea were particularly impressed that management has created an app by which parents who cannot fit in the viewing area due to reduced numbers in the building at any given time can observe their child during practice via the live streaming app afforded them.
In addition to regularly scheduled classes, GymStars donates hundreds of birthday celebrations and special events every year to local charities. An all-inclusive program for kids from 2-months to 17-yearswith 3 classes per week devoted to youngsters with special needs.
When asked to describe the basic philosophy of the program, Jennifer stated,”Our Mission Statement describes it best—To provide quality instruction in safe, clean and fun environment so that every participant can meet his or her full potential and “Reach for the Stars!”