It's a sport the Borderland has been without for some time and this fall will make its triumphant return.
The new Rainy Lake Gymnastics Academy is planning on beginning its programs this October, which will take place at the Memorial Sports Centre.
It's a vision that has been in the works for nearly a year.
“So I guess this started about almost a year ago, there was a group of interested people wanting to put together a gymnastics club and from that group emerged Jessica [Ogden] and I,” explained Stephanie Mann, who is one of the RLGA's directors while Ogden serves as the president. Other RLGA board members include Jan Abbott, Jillian Kellar and Angela DeGagne.
“We were the only two that sort of stuck that out. We became incorporated back on Dec. 12 and we kind of developed people that were interested in our board and got things rolling,” she noted.
“We've slowly, piece-by-piece, been getting a club organized and we're finally at a point where we're actually going to run a gymnastics club, which is fantastic,” enthused Mann.
Ogden has an extensive gymnastics background herself and has a passion for it that she wants to bring to the community.
“[My daughter] has been really wanting to do it and I did gymnastics for 18 years and sort of coached my way through university, so it's always been a passion of mine,” she noted.
“I would love to see it in the community again.”
The RLGA has been working with the town and will conduct the sessions, for ages two-18, at the Memorial Sports Centre auditorium.
Having the club operate out of a central location that was easy to access was a priority for the club, noted Mann.
Gymnastics equipment has been purchased and should arrive at the end of the month.
The club will run with three (floor, bars, and beam) out of the four apparatus to start, and hope to be able to purchase the vaulting equipment to have available in the facility by January 2020.
The RLGA has also gotten Fort Frances GM to join on as a community partner and stress that none of this would be possible without owner Nick Beyak's help.
“We're ready to roll. Our equipment is going to be delivered at the end of August, we have coaches, we have everything good to go and then we have Nick who has significantly helped us,” Mann noted.
“So Nick is basically our community partner that would be a good way to put it, and without him we would not be sitting here today.”
“And this gymnastics program would not be happening,” stressed Ogden.
Beyak noted that Fort Frances GM is pleased to join the RLGA as a community partner.
“Just from a Fort Frances GM perspective, when Jessica approached me to see if we would be interested in sponsoring it, I immediately said 'yes' after we covered a couple of things and just thought [the academy] was a great thing,” he explained.
"I have two girls that have gone through it in Dryden and just thought of the value of a strong gymnastics program and a town like Fort Frances, it's something that absolutely should be here.
“To see the hard work and perseverance of the board—Stephanie and Jessica and all the board members that have got things going to get it up and running—it was something definitely that I wanted to be a part of and Fort Frances GM wanted to be part of to have it for the kids in the community,” Beyak added.
“It was a no-brainer for us, or for me here, but by contributing the way that I did, I guess it sort of just sped things along quicker where we can be going by the fall.”
“We are very pleased that this partnership with Fort Frances GM provides opportunities for the local community to develop skills and strategies needed to learn gymnastics in a safe and structured environment, and lead healthy lifestyles for years to come,” said Mann.
“This partnership is about a mutual passion and commitment to advancing gymnastics participation in the community,” she added.
The RLGA is planning on having a registration night on Aug. 27 from 5-8 p.m. at the Fort Frances GM office, with the start date for its programs to be Oct. 1.
Classes will run until April 2020 to complete the first season.
“It's just going to give us a little bit of time to get our equipment and setup and takedown and all that, figure out our coaches and how we're gonna run the program so it's not totally new to everybody when we start,” said Ogden.
“We don't wanna rush anything but we also wanna get it going before winter.”
“There's classes for every age and every skill level, so it'll be really exciting to see where the kids are at, the interest, and it's really gonna be fun,” Mann enthused.
Ogden also noted that the RLGA will be a recreational club for the first year or two and then they're hoping to be more competitive in the future once they are more established.
The club will take down their equipment for some events and other classes happening in the auditorium to ensure that the community still has access to fitness classes offered by the town and organizations such as the air cadets are able to continue to offer their valuable programming to the youth in the community.
The RLGA thanked the organizing members of their fundraising committee, Lisa Brockie and Megan Pistilli. Their efforts have been fundamental in moving the club forward.
Brockie also worked closely with the Northwestern Health Unit to complete grant applications and look into other funding sources.
If you have any other questions, or want to learn more about the academy, you can find the RLGA on Facebook.