I am a private paediatric physio and have been trying to find ways of getting my clients to do more exercise in the community without having to come into physio. I was shocked to see how little there is for our children to do, with 84% of children unable to access regular leisure facilities. So I started a social enterprise called Gympanzees.
We aim to provide exercise, play and friendship to children and young people from 0-25 with any ability or disability. We plan to do this by building the countries first, fully inclusive leisure centre - the first will be in Bristol but with plans to open centres around the country.
As this has never been done before, we needed to prove the concept and so, this summer we put on a 4-week Pop Up Gympanzees. We rented out a school and set up 6 play rooms - soft play, indoor playground (with Sensory Integration equipment), Sensory Room, Trampolines, Gym and Music room. Whole families could come enjoy the centre together. Everything at the centre was set up to either provide physical exercise (more physio based) or to stimulte/ meet sensory needs of children (more OT focused) although the children and young people just thought they were coming to have fun! The results were incredible.
This is the best summer we have ever had – for once she is the centre of attention”
(Sue Price, mum of a 15 year old with Cerebral Palsy)
- We had over 1,100 bookings for children and young people with any disabilities, and their siblings over the 4 weeks.
- Families travelled from as far as Barnstaple (2.5hrs away) with one family making a holiday of it and staying in a hotel.
- One family coming for the 3rd time in the last week said this was the only 3 times they had been able to leave their house all summer
- A three year old boy enjoyed had his first ever laugh on the trampolines.
- One 7 year old girl took 5 steps in her frame for the first time after coming to the Pop Up.
- A young man was able to concentrate in a lesson for 50 minutes when his previous record was 15 minutes, after coming to the Pop Up.
- A 5yr old girl slept through the night for the first time after coming to the Pop Up.
- A parent noted that her son had done more exercise in 1.5hrs than he would normally do in 10 weeks.
- A 15 year old boy with quadraplegia CP has since joined his local gym as he enjoyed it so much and gained the confidence to go.
- Many examples of motor skills improving, balance and coordination improvements and children sweating or exercising for the first time.
- And many examples of children with autism or sensory processing problems being happier, calmer, more confident and being more sociable with strangers and their family.
We will now be putting on Pop Up's at Easter and Summer until we have the first main centre built - at which point we will start to bring Pop Up's to other parts of the country.
Follow us on FB at GympanzeesUK or visit our website at Gymapnzees.org to follow our journey.
Chartered Paediatric Physiotherapist, Wheen Physio For Children