By Libby Herz
Photos: Shalom Burkis
A young girl swings from one ring to the next. Her face is filled with wonder as she glides through the air and catches the next ring. Sunlight streams through the window, filling the room with light. Children look on, their eyes shining as they wait for their turn.
This magic occurs daily at Gymies’ facility, now located at 706 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights. There are 39 aerial points in the ceiling, and the gym is filled with custom equipment from swings, obstacle courses, slides, rock walls, rings, ladders, and silks.
Sarah Benarroch has fulfilled her dreams of creating a gymnastics studio that takes frum kids seriously. Since 2008, when Gymies debuted at the original President Street location, Gymies has served thousands of children and adults. Updated programs constantly meet the needs of the Jewish community.
Gymies’ newest program is geared towards children with special needs. “I know a lot of families who struggle on Shabbos,” Benarroch says. “The parents are hosting Shabbos meals, and their child is home and bored. They need something to do. They need to move.”
But most places are closed on Shabbos. Where can a child go to play and move freely? Now, families and caregivers can take their child with special needs to Gymies for a day of movement and joy every Shabbos morning between 10 AM – 6 PM.
And there’s always more in store at Gymies. In January 2021, Gymies opened the doors of its first Boro Park facility. Similar to the teachers at the Crown Heights location, all are professional instructors with deep gymnastics experience in their sport – whether it be Jiu-Jitsu, gymnastics, or aerial arts. They are warm and personable and encourage each child to achieve their level of excellence. All of the equipment is fully customized, from mats to springboards to balance beams.
Benarroch has a special place in her heart for kids that need to move. “I was that child who did okay in school,” Benarroch says, “but I was sitting so much of the time. I really lit up in my gymnastics class. It was only one hour of my week, but it was the highlight. Movement was my entire life.”
Later in life, Benarroch worked as a classroom teacher and noticed that her students’ test scores rose once she started teaching them gymnastics once a week. “I got this vision of happy kids who got lots of movement,” she says.
Studies that follow children from kindergarten through fourth grade prove that children involved in sports and body movement develop and improve cognitive skills.
So, with the encouragement of her fellow classroom teachers, Benarroch opened Gymies to cater to the whole child and make it a full-time job. “Gymies has always been child-centered and inclusive,” says Benarroch. “We have Down syndrome kids in regular classes. Special needs children gain independence and have positive experiences with kids their age.”
Parents who send their kids to Gymies attest to the emotional turn-around their children experience. One boy was having trouble at school, flunked a grade, and acted rudely in the classroom. The teachers at Gymies gave him special duties to fill and put him in charge of the prize box. One day, his teacher called home, saying he noticed a positive change in the boy. “It was the Gymies effect,” says the boy’s mother.
Babies can begin their life of movement and play on the equipment with their caregivers. They are welcome at Gymies Open Play in the Crown Heights location, which occurs daily between 10:00–2:00 PM. You can sponsor a child in need via their Giving Back program, which gives ten full scholarships for kids in need for every 100 students enrolled. A simple form found on the Gymies website can mean the world to a child.
Your child will shine at Gymies. Sign up online at gymies.com
Wow!! What an awesome idea! We’re lucky to have Gymies in our community
We are so lucky to have an oasis like this in our community! Our children are so limited in their movement in school and at home living in the city. It is so crucial for them to have this outlet to develop their brains and bodies.
Thank you Gymies!