Activity centre for disabled children proves highly popular
Thangam Debbonaire MP meets Gympanzees creator Stephanie Wheen
A POP up activity centre for disabled children in Kingsweston has helped families who may be unable to access most mainstream leisure facilities.
Gympanzees was created by Stephanie Wheen, a physiotherapist who supports disabled children in Bristol. After being regularly told by parents how little there is for their children to do outside of school as a result of their disabilities, three years ago she came up with the idea of building and running the UK’s first dedicated activity centre which will cater for the play, exercise and social needs of 1 million children and young people in the UK.
In order to prove that there is a need for an inclusive activity centre in the UK, Gympanzees started running temporary pop up activity centres over the summer and Easter holidays in 2018 following a crowd-funding campaign which managed to raise £150,000. However, they still need to raise another £140,000 to cover pop ups for the next three years.
The social enterprise held their third pop up at Kingsweston School from Monday July 29 – Friday August 23, where they transformed the site into eight areas including two sensory rooms, a disability-inclusive gym, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, soft play, a music room, and trampolines.
Overall the pop up welcomed over 1,800 visitors and families travelled many miles to get there, including one family making the trip from Greenwich - which demonstrates the massive need for such settings.
Thangam Debbonaire MP for Bristol West visited Gympanzees over the summer and was able to witness the smiles and laughter as well as friendships forming between children and parents alike. During the pop up, one boy (who has only ever managed to cope with a day out for 20 minutes) stayed and played at Gympanzees for three hours. Another boy and his mum shared their first ever experience of trampolining together, and one parent commented that Gympanzees was the only place she felt she could take her daughter during the holidays.
Speaking about the success of the pop up, Stephanie Wheen said: “Many more magical moments were shared with siblings able to play together, something that is often not an easy reality for these families.”
Stephanie previously told the Henleaze and Westbury Voice that Gympanzees are looking to raise £7m for the main centre and will either build something from scratch or a buy a property for refurbishment. She also added that it will be located somewhere on M4/M5 corridor.
On Sunday 8 September Gympanzees are holding a Move It My Way inclusive fundraiser at Yate Outdoor Sports Complex for those with or without disabilities. During the fun day there will be music, activities, sport challenges, games, soft play, trampolines, stalls, a tombola and a raffle, a second hand clothes and toys sale as well as face painting, with all funds raised going towards their future pop ups.
To find out more about Gympanzees, visit: www.gympanzees.org
Right: A child using equipment called The Innowalk