Edwardsville once again has an inclusive gym for children with all abilities

EDWARDSVILLE — With new owners Joey Murphy and Eric Spangler, We Rock the Spectrum Edwardsville is hoping to bring the inclusive gym back to the community as it was before.

The gym, which closed in February, was previously owned by the Range family for the past three and a half years. “It has been such a joy for me to get to know you, watch your children grow and welcome new little ones to your family. I will treasure the memories and friendships that have been made,” the family stated via their Facebook page while announcing the closing.

Murphy spent four years teaching special education at White Side Elementary school in Belleville after graduating from SIUE in 2017. When the gym closed, she saw it as an opportunity to buy into the community and support parents who don’t always have a place to take their children.

“For parents, and really everyone in the community, I think it’s important to have a space where you don’t have to say sorry,” Murphy said. “I think especially for kiddos who have specials needs, it’s hard for parents to take them to some places and feel like they aren’t going to be judged and will have to say sorry.”

The gym features multiple areas which help support each child with their different needs and engagement levels. There is an infant and toddler area, a variety of swings, a calming room, a zip line, a trampoline, monkey bars and arts and crafts.

“We have our calming room for kiddos who may get a little overstimulated. It’s a little darker and has a sound machine,” Murphy said. “Other playgrounds and gyms can often be overstimulating with all the noise, bright colors and all the overwhelming things featured in typical playgrounds.”

Murphy said the playground is open to all ages and all abilities, and their typical crowd is between the ages two and 14. Although parents can bring their kids into the gym, she said therapists bring their patients in often too, as an alternative to other office settings.

“I see a bunch of therapists really like our gym because it’s a great space to provide therapy through play,” she said. “A lot of our equipment you will see is occupational therapy equipment, like the swings, trampoline and the zipline. All of those are going to engage your senses.”

As a franchise business, there are multiple locations across the U.S. and even the world. CEO and founder of the business Dina Kimmel opened the first location in California after facing the issue of not having a safe space to take her son with autism.

“She has a lot of this equipment in her basement and she decided one day that she was going to provide a space for kids like [her] son who don’t have somewhere to go,” Murphy said.

Since the Edwardsville location reopening on June 6, the gym has begun to bring back some of the events they had before the closure. One of the hits right now is the parents’ night out from 6 to 9 p.m on the second weekend of every month.

“I have plenty of events I have scheduled for the future, which I post them all on our Instagram and Facebook pages,” Murphy said. “You get to drop your kids off, have a parents’ night out and we usually do a theme with a bunch of activities.”

She also has planned some character nights, a summer camp and other special events for the future.