The Kimberley Gymnastics Society is working towards rebuilding, after a fire gutted their club's home on Warren Ave. Bulletin file.

Kimberley Gymnastics Society begins looking at how to rebuild after devastating fire

The Kimberley Gymnastics Society has partnered with the BC Amateur Sport Fund to raise money for its Fire Recovery Project, which seeks to rebuild their club that was destroyed in a fire on December 14, 2021.

READ MORE: Kimberley RCMP believe Gymnastics Club fire suspicious in nature

“This tragic night is a big loss to the Kimberley community,” said KGS president Heidi Grainger. “All the gymnasts no longer have a place to train. The crickets daycare is gone which leaves many kids without care or the preschool experience.”

She said that when she first heard the news that the building had been gutted by a fire, her immediate reaction was a sick feeling in her stomach.

“My heart broke. I cried. And that awful feeling that I have to tell my daughter and break her heart.Telling her was the worst. She cried. We cried together. For days. She had so many questions for me and I had no answers.”

She said that her daughter had just competed in that building two days prior — the first time she was able to watch her and her team compete in two years.

“It was an old building but being in there everyone was like family and it was home,” she said.

Donna Andrews, club manager and administrator of the KGS provided some history on the building and the club itself.

She said that the club first came into being back in the late ‘70s due to demand from local youth and their families for the provision of gymnastics. It was officially incorporated as a society on Dec. 9, 1986 and was run as a non-profit club with a board made up of four volunteers and a staff of ten.

Over the years, the club called several locations home, including McKim and Selkirk schools, but all the moving around proved difficult over time due to the constant set up and take down of equipment.

The club finally settled at its home in the building at 2015 Warren Ave, which was purchased by Tony Lazzaro, who then renovated it and transformed it into a gymnasium, making the dream of a gymnastics program a reality for the community.

The building is now owned by the City of Kimberley.

“The Society has the City to thank for the continued support for the club in helping to maintain the building, and in allowing the club’s continued operation there for very little cost,” Andrews said.

She said that the building itself was 40’ by 80’ and had a carpeted foam spring floor, a foam safety pit, a pommel horse, an in-ground trampoline and much, much more gymnastics equipment, built up over 35 years and estimated to cost around $470,000 to replace. This does not include the office or the Daycare.

The club does hold the content insurance, but Andrews said at this time it is a work in progress, and said their adjuster warned them it could be a year before any funds are seen, due to backlogging caused by flooding, fire and short staffing due to COVID.

The club offered programming for children of five years onwards up to early adulthood. The building was also available for rent to other community groups and individuals, for example for birthday parties, dry-land training and special needs classes on Saturdays.

It was also the home of the Gyminy Cricket Daycare which ran from Monday to Fridays for three to five years olds.

“Since 1986, we’ve made it our mission to teach gymnastics in a fun and safe environment that allows people of all ages and levels to build confidence while mastering technique,” Andrews said.

“At the core of our success is…OUR HEART. We love gymnastics, we love people, and we love helping people explore the joy of gymnastics at every level.”

Andrews told the Bulletin that the fire displaced 20 competitive athletes, 85 recreational kids and 28 daycare spots — down from around 45 pre-COVID.

“We have had probably over 10,000 kids go through gymnastics and 1500 through the daycare in all the years. It breaks our hearts so see the community devastated by this loss, especially all the kids that who wanted it for activity, competitions, mental health, the daycare need and just having a fun and safe place to go,” Andrews said.

At the time of the fire, all of their classes were full, some even had waitlists. The club usually sees an average of 300 or more members each year, though that number had dropped a bit due to COVID, and in fact the club did have to close for seven months. They were just able to re-open and things were starting to look up as they got back on their feet when the devastating fire occurred.

Their winter session that was set to commence on January 4 was nearly full, and the club was starting to prepare for their annual Coconut Cup meet — a two-day event that brings in over 225 athletes from all over B.C. and Alberta and also one of the club’s biggest fundraisers.

The City of Kimberley has a meeting on Monday, Jan. 10 at which the building will be discussed.

“The City holds the building Insurance and we have not been informed at this time how the city wants to move forward,” Andrews said. “We of course are hopeful they will want to rebuild and bring back the much-needed Daycare and gymnastic facility. Time will tell.”

She added that if the club can move forward and learn what the building insurance number was, they could see exactly how much they need to fundraise. They plan to do as much fundraising and applying for grants as possible. They’ve already reached out to Columbia Basin Trust and are hoping to work on something with them.

You can donate to their fundraiser with the BC Amateur Sport Fund at this link http://support.bcamateursportfund.org/P0373 Donors will receive a tax receipt.

In the meantime the club is making a valiant effort to stay active, and held their first week at a a new gym ,with new coaches and new teammates — certainly a lot to adjust to.

Andrews added that lots of members of the community have reached out directly to the City to show their support and express their hopes of a rebuild.

READ MORE: LETTER: Resident urges Kimberley City Council to rebuild gymnastics centre

“I love seeing all the posts of support from everyone,” Grainger said. “All the pictures and videos. Gives us all something to smile about and there are so many great memories. I find myself quite often looking back through the gymnastics society Facebook page. Or the Kimberley gymnastics Instagram page the girls started. Even all my photos. It shows how close everyone is and what a family they have all become.”

You can follow the Club at their website https://www.kimberleygymnastics.com/ or on Facebook at Kimberley Gymnastics Society.



paul.rodgers@kimberleybulletin

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