By Erin Pesut
Marcella Eubanks and Danielle Dixon opened Bravery Kids Gym to be a parent facilitated indoor play space for any child, whether that child has typical or special needs. Bravery Kids Gym helps improve physical, cognitive, social, and communication development in children, but it all just seems like fun and games.
Q: What is Bravery Kids Gym?
Marcella: We are an inclusive play facility for children of all abilities. I stress inclusive play because we cater to children with special needs.
Danielle: A typical kid can play right beside a child with a wide variety of special needs. They’re all gaining developmental skills.
Marcella: They don’t know they’re improving their balance or improving their motor skills…
Danielle: …or safety awareness or strength or balance or courage. They just know that they’re having fun.
What is your motto?
Danielle: Our motto is “play with a purpose” because everything is purposeful. Our equipment is all therapy inspired.
How did Bravery Kids Gym come to be?
Danielle: Marcella and I graduated from the Physical Therapy Assistant program at Fayetteville Technical Community College and we were working together at Cape Fear. Marcella came to me with the idea. Her son has autism and my daughter has a physical disability.
Marcella: We brainstormed and kept growing until we opened last year, July 16, 2016.
Why did you decide to open Bravery Kids Gym?
Marcella: There are certain places that are open to the public and they have certain days when they accommodate for kids with special needs. We want to accommodate special needs children all of the time.
In what way do you offer accommodations?
Marcella: In a stimulating environment with other kids, colors, and noises, kids with sensory needs may need to be calmed. We have noise-cancelling headphones, fidget toys, weighted and compression vests to help calm them. The vests help them focus.
In what ways can kids play here?
Danielle: We have a rock wall, a jump deck into a foam pit, a zip track, trapeze bars, and swings. All of our swings are therapeutic whether they’re nesting, compression, or platform swings. We even have a handicap swing which has full back support. We have slides, monkey rings, monkey bars, and toys for bouncing.
Marcella: We also have an imagination area, a sensory room, and a quiet room. The quiet room has sensory seating. My son doesn’t like sitting still, but he needs to read, so with a wiggle cushion, he can get that sense of movement and focus more on the book.
Danielle: We have an interactive floor in one of our rooms with over 20 games that kids can cycle through. We get a new game every month. It’s a touch screen, like a huge iPad on the floor. I bought pool noodles so a group of handicap students could play the game from their chair.
Marcella: And we also have a fine motor OT (occupational therapy) area with arts and crafts, puzzles, and kinetic sand.
What events happen at Bravery Kids Gym?
Danielle: We do birthday parties, host field trips, and put on classes for everyone. Right now we offer yoga, baby sign language, dance fitness boot camps, and special needs nights. Brave Kids Night is the second Thursday of the month and Brave Teen Night, for 12 to 17 year olds, is the fourth Thursday of the month.
How do you two make co-owning this business successful?
Danielle: From the get-go, we broke it down into pieces and what fits our personalities. We split the duties like networking, ordering, the financial aspects and also the work schedule.
Marcella: We complement each other. When I’m stressed out, I remember why I picked Danielle as a business partner. She’s strong in the areas that I’m weak in.
What kind of resources do you offer the community?
Danielle: We want to be a resource for the resources. There are a lot of community resources, from the Autism Society of Cumberland County to First In Families of North Carolina to sleep consulting, so we want to help people navigate what might be out there. Parents find each other to be resources, and we’re always happy to be a resource in any way we can.
Can you describe a moment in regards to Bravery Kids Gym when everything just felt right?
Danielle: I have a moment like that at least once a month. When it’s my day to work, and I’m looking out and watching kids play, I’m usually noticing the parents. There was a group of moms, six or seven of them, and they ended up just sitting on the floor while their kids played. I saw them talking and making friends and I thought, “I’m so glad I own this place.” Also, when people come to us and they say, “Thank you for opening. You are such a blessing. We needed a place like this here.”
Marcella: For me, there was a field trip from a school in Southern Pines. It was an EC (Exceptional Children) class. One of the boys, he always walked with a walker. He played with his friends so much that by the end of the day he was walking without his walker. He even did the monkey bars! His teachers said, “This is the first time he’s ever done anything like this.”
How did you decide on the name Bravery Kids Gym?
Marcella: My son’s name is Brandon…
Danielle: …and my daughter’s name is Avery.
Bravery Kids Gym is open to anyone. Open play and daily rates range from $6 to $12 with group, sibling, toddler, and military discounts available. For more information visit braverykidsgym.com or call 910.779.0623.