The People of Balance 180: Krista Vandenborne

Krista Vandenborne is one of the driving forces behind Balance 180. Without her Balance 180 would not be what is it today. Her vision for the program and commitment to the students, athletes and Gainesville community is nothing less than extraordinary.

When Krista, Carsten and three other board members at the time started Balance 180, they had no background in running a non-profit. They didn’t know how to put their dreams into action but what they did know is that they had a mission. A mission to bring gymnastics and gymnastics related activities to children of all abilities in Gainesville.

“We had no business experience,” Krista said, “We were grandiose and naïve. We didn’t know the first thing about how to start a non-profit.”

Balance 180 started out with a couple of pieces of gymnastics equipment and a rented floor space at Florida Team Cheer.

Krista recalls packing up all of the gymnastics equipment and stuffing it into a car after work, so that they could set up for class. Each time they would move the equipment to the gym, set up for two hours, hold a two-hour class, and then break it all down again, like a traveling circus.

The first ever program Balance 180 offered was the Special Olympics program with 14 athletes. Today, the organization has two fully equipped gyms and over 650 athletes.

“Starting out was definitely a reality check,” Krista said. “We had to start small and grow step by step.”

When Krista’s son, Sean, was little she enrolled him in a recreational gymnastics class. Sean has a learning disability and sensory integration dysfunction. He struggled with fine motor skills and wasn’t the most graceful gymnast in the group.  Krista smiled as she reflected on his time as a gymnast.

“He benefited from doing gymnastics. I saw how much he enjoyed it, even though his toes weren’t pointed and his knees were flexed, there was just this look of pride on his face.”

Krista said she knew when they started planning to create a non-profit gymnastics center, it had to include children like Sean. She said she wanted a place where children of all abilities could grow and learn gymnastics together.

“To me, Balance 180 is a place for kids to feel safe, to feel cared for, and a place where they can build confidence.”

Krista said confidence is the key to success. She remembers working with Sean when he was younger and noticing that he didn’t have the confidence to try things. Her goal is for every athlete to walk into the gym, have fun and walk out with a little more confidence than they started with.

“I always want the kids to leave with an extra bounce in their step, and I think that little bounce tells me they feel good about themselves.”

Balance 180 currently has over 200 volunteers and Krista has made it her mission to create an infrastructure for them to learn and grow professionally.

“The volunteers and the students put their heart and soul into Balance 180, and they make it what it is today,” She said. “They bring so much energy, and so much enthusiasm and a part of my role is to help nurture that and guide them.”

Krista said she believes Gainesville is a wonderful community that offered Balance 180 a unique opportunity. With two institutions dedicated to educating and training students, the University of Florida and Santa Fe College have so many incredible young people willing to give their free time to the community.

“The Gainesville community is very supportive of nonprofit organizations,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have been able to build Balance 180 in Gainesville; I think it was the perfect place for what we do.”

Krista said she believes Balance 180 still has a lot of room for growth and is excited to continue to serve the Gainesville community.

“I can’t wait to see what’s next,” she said.

Thank you, Krista, for all you do.

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

Just received a $4000 Grant from the Special Olympics!

Balance 180 is proud to announce that we have been chosen as a recipient of a $4,000 grant from the Special Olympics!

The Balance 180 team has been working effortlessly to bring the Gainesville community together through the Young Athletes Program. From volunteers to board members, we are all thankful to receive such a wonderful grant to continue and improve our services in the future.

Thanks, Special Olympics!

We Made the Front Page of the Gainesville Sun!

Special kids get a jump on sports and togetherness

By Kristine Crane
Staff writer

Zaivion and Zachary Mason of Gainesville never used to play together. Although the two brothers are just a year apart, they were born with one big difference between them: Zaivion, 7, has cerebral palsy, a disease of the central nervous system affecting motor skills, and his little brother doesn’t.

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Athletes Gear Up for The Special Olympics!

Balance 180 has made into another article in The Independent Alligator! Check it out!

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Young athletes will have the chance to shine at Alachua County’s first Special Olympics this weekend.

Rooted on by UF cheerleaders, Olympic torchbearer Jillian Roberts and the mayor of Gainesville, disabled preschool- and elementary-aged children will perform athletics including running, jumping and throwing, said event coordinator Krista Vandenborne.

The Special Olympics will take place at St. Francis Catholic High School, 4100 NW 115th St., from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The program is being hosted by Balance 180, an organization founded this year by two UF professors. Vandenborne, the chairwoman of UF’s Department of Physical Therapy, is among the professors who helped found Balance 180.

She said the young athletes — ages 2 through 7 with disabilities ranging from Down syndrome to cerebral palsy — have been preparing for the event all semester with training sessions.

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