At Donna’s Gym-nastic it’s educational gym-nastics at its BEST! We sit down w/ owner Donna Gunn Newkirk to find out all about her successful downtown children’s gym.
Q. How long has Donna’s Gym-nastics been open?
A. This spring will be our 30th Anniversary! Donna’s Gym-nastics began in April of 1993 in Twins Lakes. We moved to Downtown Kenosha in September of 2009.
Q. How did Donna’s Gym-nastics start?
A. I am a former college gymnast, a former gymnastics club and high school coach, and taught for over 35 years as a public school teacher. I earned three Wisconsin teaching certificates/licenses. For 23 years, I was a specially designed physical education teacher, working with children with special needs and traveling to 6 – 8 schools in 1 day in Kenosha & Racine counties. My caseload was extremely high and due to the large amount paperwork and after school meetings, I had to quit coaching gymnastics. Coaching gymnastics is a busy commitment – I have always had a strong love for gymnastics and missed being involved in it, so in 1993 I decided to make the time to start my own non-competitive gymnastics business.
We began offering classes in the basement of a church in Twin Lakes and also launched a mobile program, where we would offer classes at Kenosha daycares and preschools. A few years later, as the program grew, we moved to a larger facility and started renting a large parochial school gym in Wilmot. Eventually, we also opened a small program at a church in Kenosha. At the church locations, they had to pull out, set-up our equipment, and put it away each day!
What made you choose Downtown Kenosha?
In the fall of 2008, I started teaching PE and dance at a Fine Arts school in Racine and, with living in the city of Kenosha, the ride out to the county got to me. So, in September of 2012, I decided to relocate to Downtown Kenosha. Donna’s Gym-nastics operates our 2600 square foot gym in 1/3 of the old Walgreens building on Sixth Avenue. At the time, the rents in Downtown Kenosha were a lot cheaper and more affordable than areas on the westside of the city. I had already made friends with a few downtown business owners and felt a draw to the area.
What do you love about Downtown Kenosha?
The small town feel of Downtown Kenosha and the friendly foot traffic especially on the weekends. There is also a lot of local support for the small downtown businesses.
How did you personally get into gymnastics and what made you be a coach?
As a child, I was often found outside climbing trees, dancing and tumbling in the yard. After watching Olga Korbut in 1972 Olympics, I was immediately bitten by the gymnastic bug, but there were not a lot of gymnastics programs around in Rochester, NY, where I lived at the time. I competed in gymnastics in high school and in college. In high school, I started teaching gymnastics at the gymnastics club where I trained. I also was a high school cheerleader and coached an elementary cheerleading squad. Since the age of 8, I knew I wanted to be a special education teacher. I obtained a bachelors degree in Physical Education and dance from SUNY Brockport and a masters degree in Adapted/Special Physical education from UW-LaCrosse. These majors helped pursue my passion to coach gymnastics. Years later, I obtained my PreK- 6 grade classroom teaching certification from Cardinal Stritch University.
What can parents and children expect when they sign up at Donna’s Gym-nastics?
Our first motto is “Educational Gymnastics At Its Best!” and our second is “We make fitness and movement fun!”
Donna’s Gym-nastics offers classes in a non-competitive, safe, educational, friendly and fun environment. We keep our student/teacher ratios small to met the individual needs of our students. During the school year, we offer 8 week classes for 5 terms or sessions. For our sixth term in the summer, we offer camps, clinics and mini sessions.
What kind of classes/programs do you offer and for what ages?
Our gymnastics program, begins with ages 6 months-18 years old, starting with our baby gym program, then our preschool and movement programs and finally, our structured gymnastics, tumbling & mini tramp classes. When our schedule permits, we also offer private lessons.
Some specialty classes that we offer are: Dancing Bears, Cheer Bears, Cheerleading & Tumbling, Fitness classes (American Ninja Warrior style), Super Heroes & Fitness Warriors, Sensory Classes for Children with Special Needs and our NEW Gym N’ Learn program!
We also have two Performance Show Teams that perform at local events like Kenosha Kingfish games, local nursing homes and college games, as well as, our in-house gym festivals and showcases.
What makes Donna’s Gym-nastics stand out from others?
We are a small, non-competitive gym that follows USA Gymnastic guidelines for our curriculums. Most of our teachers have a state teaching license and/or are former club and high school coaches that have taught in competitive programs. We teach proper form and skill progressions.
Q&A and photos by Donny Stancato
Edited by Jason Hedman
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(This article first appeared in Vol 16. #1 2023 Go Downtown Kenosha Magazine)