People of Balance 180 – Carsten Schmalfuss

You’ve seen him emceeing our annual events, dressing up in crazy costumes, and he is the one responsible for stocking the bathrooms with toilet paper. Our president, Carsten Schmalfuss, is genuinely a master juggler. We often like to joke that he’s Balance 180’s very own Batman because he operates in the night, comes willingly when we call, and he always saves the day.

In 2012, five dedicated members of our community banded together to create a nurturing place for children who enjoy gymnastics. A place where kids of all abilities can learn how to be physically active, gain a sense of accomplishment, and make friends. A place where parents can come together, watch their children have fun, and be a part of an extended family.

Carsten recalls a time where Balance 180 was just a concept, “It all started with an idea; and to transition from an idea to reality was incredible. That this idea actually flies and meets the needs of the people in the community. That is awesome.”

Balance 180 got its name because it reminds us that life requires balance. Life can’t just all be about gymnastics or school or work. The 180 reflects a scale and of course in gymnastics 180 happens to be a perfect split, a skill all good gymnasts strive to obtain.

Carsten is a cardiologist who is loved by his patients and staff. He has two daughters, Kiki and Veronika, and moved here from Germany as a medical resident together with his wife Ilona, a well-respected neuroradiologist. As a clinician and parent of former gymnasts, Carsten appreciates how beneficial sports such as gymnastics can be to children’s development.

Carsten says, “Gymnastics is an excellent tool that we can use to teach kids about community, interactions, physical fitness and time management.”

His proudest moment was when he realized that Balance 180 fills a need in the community and has how much support and encouragement we have received as well as how many people have enjoyed our programs.

Carsten hopes for the future that Balance 180 in its core function will be around well beyond the founders’ retirement. He said, “I hope that we put something on a path that will continue to run and be a great resource for our community.”

All of us at Balance 180 are so grateful for Dr. Schmalfuss’ commitment and vision, and the love he pours into our facility and community.

Written by Julie Walter.

 

Team Florida Goes for the Gold!

With the first week of July comes the kick-off of National Hot Dog Month, National Ice Cream Month, National Picnic Month, and the patriotic spirit for the 4th of July. But what you may not know is amidst all the summer celebration also comes the start of the Special Olympics 2018 USA Games. The 2018 USA Games take place every 2 years with athletes from all over the United States. This year they are held in Seattle, Washington. This special and monumental event began with an opening ceremony on Sunday at the University of Washington’s Huskey Stadium to honor the 3,000 athletes that will be competing in the Games from Sunday, July 1st to Friday, July 6th. The Special Olympics flag was also raised all the way to the top of the Space Needle to honor the Games, the athletes, the ideals of Special Olympics, and its 50th anniversary.

One of the biggest goals of Special Olympics is to encourage acceptance of all individuals of varying abilities. Each day Special Olympics strives towards inclusion in athletics, and these 2018 USA Games are just one of the many ways in which they will showcase that. In addition to celebrating these games, Special Olympics participants will also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics in honor of Eunice Shriver, who was the founder of Special Olympics and the one who started this movement towards inclusive sports. These Games are an impactful way to commemorate the road that Eunice Shriver paved, as well as all the accomplishments and progress that these athletes are making today.

The 2018 USA Games will consist of 14 different sports that athletes from all over the U.S. will be competing in over the span of a week. Specifically, Team Florida will have over 230 athletes competing in Athletics (track and field), Basketball, Bowling, Bocce, Flag Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Powerlifting, Soccer, Softball, Stand Up Paddle, Swimming, Tennis, and Volleyball. Team Florida headed to Seattle in style as the Miami Marlins baseball team hosted a special send-off on Friday, June 29th. Among these athletes were our friends from LEAP South Florida, who will be representing the Special Olympics Florida Gymnastics Team. The athletes of LEAP South Florida joined us last year here at Balance 180 for the 2017 Special Olympics Area Games. We will be cheering them on all the way from Gainesville as they go for the gold!

For more information and updates on the event, visit specialolympicsusagames.org. Results for Team Florida and specific events, such as Gymnastics, can also be found here! 

 

Written by Casey McLaughlin

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.

 

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.