With the Rio Olympics on our doorstep, many are looking forward to watching the likes of Gabby Douglas and Jacob Dalton tumbling towards gold. The next generation of gymnasts now have a new place to train in Pekin.
Aerial Athletics officially cut the ribbon last night, opening the doors to an elite and welcoming tumbling and cheer experiences for local youth.
“We really felt like there was a need for recreational all-around gymnastics in Pekin,” co-owner Niki DiDonato said. “I have always wanted to open up a gym, but never had the means to do it.”
DiDonato teamed up with her friend Vanessa Cox last year to start towards making this dream a reality.
The gym, located at 215 Court St., contains a recreational set of bars, a full size beam, a vault trainer, a spring floor and a tumbling track and pit. There are offerings for cheerleaders and gymnasts of all levels of experience, beginning with classes for children that are learning how to walk. DiDonato encouraged everyone to consider gymnastics, citing its ability to teach self-discipline.
“There are so many great reasons to try gymnastics. It’s just an all-around sport,” DiDonato said. “I have even seen football players and wrestlers do it to help get ready for their season.”
Aerial Athletics prides itself on its non-exclusivity, instead striving to offer “a reasonably priced solution to individuals with the desire to become good athletes,” according to the gym’s Facebook page. The goal is that this approach should instill confidence, motivation and drive into the athletes, which is reflected in the gym’s motto: “Dream big. Aim high.”
For Cox and DiDonato, part of this dream is a gym where parents are welcome and the participants and parents alike celebrate the athlete’s successes as individuals.
In addition to organized programs, there will also be weekly open gyms for those in grades sixth and up who wish to sharpen their skills. Once a month, the gym will host a “Parents’ Night Out,” so that parents can take a date night while their kids enjoy two and a half hours at the gym. Aerial Athletics can also be rented for birthdays and other parties.
Classes will be taught by Cox and DiDonato — both of whom taught tumbling classes at the Pekin Park District — as well as other trained and professional coaches.
For those that have never tried their hand at gymnastics, DiDonato has a simple message: “Come on in and try it out.”
Links for program information and registration for fall sessions can be found on the gym’s Facebook Page.