The Estrada Family Share Their Story

Aiden and Caleb Estrada are regular fixtures of Balance 180’s Adaptive Gymnastics program. The boys, who are affectionately known as Papa and Buggy, bring joy to the gym and the volunteers who have the opportunity to work with them. We are grateful to the Estrada family for sharing their story.

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.


Why Our Athletes and Coaches Love Gymnastics!

This weekend we celebrated National Gymnastics Day at Balance 180 and found out why our athletes and coaches love gymnastics! 

It’s fun!

The teachers are awesome 

Climbing the rope is fun 

I ❤️ doing aerials!

I hate that it’s so short

I like the bubbles

I love Balance 180

It gives me confidence

It taught me grace 

It taught me discipline and how to follow rules

It helps build strength

It has made me a stronger person

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 Results for Team Florida and specific events, such as Gymnastics, can also be found here! 


Written by Casey McLaughlin

The People of Balance 180: Andrew Fenton

Unlike most coaches, Andrew Fenton wasn’t interested in medals, proper form or high scores. What he did like was the strength he acquired while training as a gymnast. Being strong gave him confidence, pride and a sense of identity. Even today Andrew can recall his reputation at school being contingent on whether he won the latest arm wrestling match. “I just remember that being important to me,” he said.

Strength training and conditioning has long been a part of Andrew’s life. At the age of 12 years old, Andrew’s dad decided to bring him to the gym and taught him to weight lift. From there his love of fitness began to evolve, focusing on eating healthy, pushing himself for personal bests, and ultimately getting his personal training certification. Eleven years later Andrew still lifts weights every day.

Now as a gymnastics coach, Andrew likes to teach the kids how to be strong and push themselves. Not just physically, but also mentally. He finds ways to motivate them and cheer them on. He shares his passion for fitness, hard work, and gaining strength with athletes in all of his classes.

“I want to teach them how to discover the enjoyment of effort.”

As a Balance 180 certified adaptive coach, Andrew works with children of all abilities. He leads them in activities and helps children feel unique and important, throwing them his signature smile and an encouraging comment as they give their best try and accomplish a new milestone. Andrew has enjoyed learning to work with kids with special needs and has taken his skills outside of the gym to help children in other settings.

In the summer of 2017, Andrew traveled to Nairobi, Kenya where he volunteered with a group of physical therapists treating children with disabilities in a facility called Heshima. Heshima is a children’s center in Kenya that helps children with special needs get the resources and attention they require.

“In Kenya, children with special needs are treated as though they are diseased or cursed. Mothers are viewed as being responsible for these disabilities and are ostracized from their communities and families,” Andrew said.

During his trip, it was Andrew’s job to assist the physical therapists, get the right equipment and socialize with the children. He enjoyed spending quality time with the kids, helping them during their physical therapy exercises and engaging in thoughtful conversations with their mothers. 

“It was the perfect way to marry what I’m passionate about and being able to help other people.”

Andrew is one of a kind and is determined to have an impact on everyone he meets. His passion for fitness and wellness of others will serve him well as he pursues a career in physical therapy. Thank you, Coach Andrew, for sharing your story. 


Written by Julie Walter.