Dear Mom,

Thank you for all the times you picked me up when I fell down.

For cleaning up my boo-boos and kissing them to make them feel better.

For drying my tears and replacing them with a smile.


Thank you for reprimanding when I mess up, so I can learn.

For arguing with me and teaching me the value of communication.

For making me do chores, so I know how to work.

And for putting me on time out, so I know the importance of discipline.


Thank you for driving me to friends’ houses, sports and anywhere I need to go.

Thank you for holding my hand at the doctor’s office, so I am not scared.

Thank you for taking off of work to come to my plays, games, and competitions.

Thank you for showing me what a strong woman looks and acts like.


Thank you for all the advice you give me;

And for not giving up when I don’t hear it the first time.

Thank you for holding my hand, even when I think I am too old.

Thank you for calling every day;

And never giving up when I say I don’t have time to talk.


Thank you for every hug, kiss and laugh you have ever given me.

For every smile, we have shared, and all the comfort you have given me through the years.

Thank you for knowing I always love you, even when I don’t say it.

And most importantly, thank you for making me feel loved even when we are miles apart.

I love you, Mom. To the moon and back.

Written by: Julie Walter 

The People of Balance 180: Matteo Gavilano

“I have Asperger’s, don’t worry it’s not contagious.”

As a child, Matteo Gavilano didn’t talk a lot. He was quiet and didn’t like walking on grass or sand.  Sometimes stretching his arms and his legs out was just too difficult. So at 2 years old, his family decided to visit a doctor and get a medical opinion. Matteo was diagnosed with a speech delay and then later with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.  

“It was hard to accept in the beginning, he was so little and scheduled for therapy every day of the week. But in the end, early intervention made a big difference and paid off.”

Matteo has been a part of the Balance 180 gymnastics family since early 2012. Six years later, he is training on the Special Olympics Competitive team. He was chosen for the Jaime Gomez Scholarship, an award given to the athlete who most embodies one of our late founders Jaime Gomez.  And this past month, he gave a magnificent speech at the Young Athlete’s Program’s Culminating Event.

“I never thought I had a disability before the day my dad told me.”

Matteo is in fifth grade and preparing to undertake middle school at the Howard Bishop gifted program next year. Starting middle school is scary for everyone but preparing a child with autism can be a bit more challenging. Matteo’s family decided it was time to tell Matteo about his diagnosis.

They started by showing him videos and told him why he is so unique. They explained what made him different from other kids, especially when it comes to social interactions. Matteo now understands autism and explains it as “the reason he is special”. But Matteo wasn’t the only one his parents had to inform. Matteo’s sister, Camilla and the rest of the extended family in Peru also had to be educated.

Giovana, Matteo’s mom, says educating the family is a process. They understand his diagnosis, but there are certain things they can’t comprehend. When situations come up, it’s hard for them to know how to respond in the best way.  It’s one thing to know what autism is, but it’s very different to live with it.

Autism awareness in the United States has made incredible progress, but in Peru, there are far fewer resources available for families who have children with special needs. Giovana’s is grateful that her children were born in the US where Matteo can get the education, supportive recreation, and therapy he needs. She says through therapy sessions and gymnastics classes two to three times per week he has been able to gain more confidence, improve his flexibility and strength tremendously and create valuable social connections. Matteo Gavilano has grown into a strong and independent young man, and we could not be more proud of him.

Written by Julie Walter.

People of Balance 180: One story at a time.


10 Reasons You Don’t Want to Miss Out on Summer Camp

Balance 180’s summer camp is always a blast! The days are filled with an abundance of activities that our athletes love! Here at the ten things your kids don’t want to miss at Balance 180 summer camp.

1. Gymnastics!

The main focus of Balance 180 camp is learning gymnastics! We have a great team of experienced coaches who are excited to work with our campers. We have campers of all ages and ability levels join us, and we take care to divide the kids into groups according to age and ability so that they are challenged accordingly. From beginners to experienced gymnasts, we are excited for the campers to have a fun and safe place to learn new skills.

2. Obstacle courses and challenges

Campers get to enjoy a variety of obstacle courses and fitness challenges throughout their time at camp! They can swing from the rope, jump on the trampoline and show off their best moves throughout our fun obstacle courses. We also sometimes like to get a little competitive and form teams to do relay races, push up contests, handstand hold contests, and more. Watch out for the coaches who like to show off a bit!

3. Friendships that last a lifetime

Our camp is specifically designed for facilitating friendships! Our tagline and hashtag this year is #SummerofFriendships! All of our activities involve interacting with kids of all ages and abilities and generate plenty of smiles. One of our favorite parts is when our campers do not want to go home at the end of the camp day because they do not want to leave their friends.

4. Games

Games, games, games! We play so many fun games it’ll make you want to be a kid again! When athletes arrive at camp they get to choose a station with their favorite game (dance party, fort building, and Twister to name a few) and play with a smaller group. Then throughout the day, we have designated times when we play games like four corners, shipwreck and red light green light with all of our campers. Not sure what shipwreck is? Just ask your camper, and you are sure to get a smile and a lengthy explanation.


5. Open gym

Every afternoon our campers are able to practice their favorite gymnastics skills on each event! During this time, the campers get to choose what skills they want to work on and tell the coaches what skills they would like help with learning. The kids LOVE using this time to perfect current skills and master new ones.


6. Dress up day on Fun Fridays!

Each week of camp is themed! This year our themes are, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and Trolls! Every Friday, campers are encouraged to dress up in their best costumes and have the chance to win a costume competition!

7. Coaches performances

Fun fact: Every single one of our coaches is a prior gymnast! Most of them still love to perform and will be doing so at the end of each week of camp! Here is a show they put on at one of our last events…

8. Special guests

Gainesville is full of inspiration and incredible people, and lucky for our campers many of them will be coming out to the gym! In previous summers we’ve had police officers, fire fighters, CPR instructors, karate instructors, dancers, yogi’s and so many more awesome guests join us to tell us about what they do and share their talents. 


9. A chance to show off their creative side

Each day the kids do crafts, play games, and learn a part of a special dance that they perform for each other at the end of the week. All of these activities tie into our theme for each week. The kids get to have fun being kids and have the opportunity to show off their creativity through these different outlets. Such great ways to learn and have fun through hands-on and active play.

10. Camper of the day

We have some pretty awesome campers and we love to recognize them. At the end of each day, we pick a camper of the day from each group that the kids are divided into for gymnastics and other activities throughout the day. These campers are chosen for traits like being good friends, being great listeners, working hard, or accomplishing new skills. They also get to be the team leader for the next day and have important jobs with assisting their coach.

Written by Julie Walter

The 5 Kids at an Easter Egg Hunt

What’s better than seeking out plastic toys full of candy, dressing up in your best clothes, and having the chance to win a competition? Easter eggs hunts have a little bit of something for everyone involved. As Easter approaches, we figured it was only appropriate to describe the 5 different type of kids in an Easter egg hunt.

The Daydreamer

This little one might as well be strolling through the woods on a fine summer day. They are just taking it all in and might pick up an egg or two if it stumbles along their path. This child is more likely to be found looking up into the sky than down for those eggs.

The Hunger Games Candidate

You might mistake this child for one from the 13 districts. They run from egg to egg picking them up with speed only a truly determined child could conjure up. This child isn’t above pushing smaller children out of the way to snatch that golden egg (not recommended).

The Dynamic Duo

These siblings are often found attached at the hip. Pointing out eggs and picking them up together, they are cute as a button. They may be slower than the rest, but should get extra points for teamwork.

The Mathematician

Each egg is meticulously counted and placed carefully in the bin. This child is tactical and locates the prime egg hiding spots quickly. They are able to calculate just how many eggs they need to win the competition.

The Sweet Tooth

This child is more interested in the candy than the competition. Sometimes they are found munching on jelly beans as they search for the rest of the hidden sweet treats. This child loves Easter almost as much as Halloween.

Happy egg hunting, everyone! And may the odds ever be in your favor.