An Opportunity to Share a Story

This week’s blog is a little different. One of the staff members at Redwood Empire Gymnastics forwarded an email to me from USA Gymnastics. They have launched a new website called and they are looking for brief stories that respond to the question “Do you know anyone who has benefited from gymnastics?”

I most certainly do know someone: our daughter. Valerie’s participation in gymnastics has contributed so much to developing her athleticism and confidence. And I am always glad to have an opportunity to sing the praises of Redwood Empire Gymnastics. Steve Klotz and his staff have been encouraging kids through gymnastics for 30 years and are one of the organizations that makes Petaluma such a great place to live.

So below is my (slightly over 200 word) submission to USA Gymnastics:

My daughter, Valerie, loves to be challenged. I think that is why she found such fulfillment in rhythmic gymnastics. Because she was born without a left hand, she had to learn how to catch and toss the rhythmic gymnastic apparatus such as the ribbon, rope, and clubs wearing a prosthetic arm.

Some would have looked at Valerie and only seen her limitations, but that was not the case at Redwood Empire Gymnastics (REG). When Valerie began rhythmic classes at age eight, her coach recognized her determination and never doubted Valerie’s ability to succeed in the sport.

This message gave Valerie confidence that grew stronger every year that she competed. While she is certainly unique, she was never treated differently than her teammates. At meets, Valerie was judged like any other gymnast and was proud that when she received good scores, she wasn’t just getting “pity points.” It boosted her confidence even more because she knew that if she was standing on the awards podium at the end of the meet, it was because she deserved to be there.

Participating in rhythmic gymnastics fostered Valerie’s ability to solve problems creatively. For example, her prosthesis has no movement in the wrist so Valerie had to devise ways to perform the skills with the limitations of her arm. But this also gave her an opportunity to develop her other strengths such as her musicality and expression.

Although Valerie decided not to compete this year, she maintains her involvement by coaching youngsters at REG. She is a role model for them by demonstrating that there are many ways to be a successful gymnast. You don’t even need two hands”¦just a positive attitude.

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