Children’s gym to open in Fredonia

Providing a safe space

Submitted Photo The sign outside of the Chautauqua Children’s Gym, located on Route 20 heading toward Silver Creek.

When driving on Route 20 out of Fredonia toward Silver Creek, you may notice a new business in a once vacant building. Dawn Manzella, along with her team of five board members, are in the process of opening up a Children’s Sensory gym, which will be open to kids of all ages, and more importantly, abilities.

Manzella has been a pre-school teacher for the last eight years and has a full-inclusive classroom.

“Full inclusion has a positive effect on kids. Children have the same emotions adults do, but we expect them to bottle it up. We don’t give them a good way to express anxiety or anger,” Manzella said.

Manzella believes that this outlet of expression will make the children focus better and have appropriate behavior. It was this trend in projected behavior that got Manzella into action. She began doing research on this gym around two years ago, and there has been a lot of work already going into it.

In addition to being a pre-school teacher in a full inclusive class room for the last eight years, Manzella has her masters in special education, and worked in child care for six years before that. Armed with the experience already, Manzella had to figure out how to actually open the gym. Being a non-profit organization, there are a few extra steps required.

“I met with a lawyer and an accountant, and the ball just got rolling from there,” Manzella said.

As for the contents of the gym, everything is top of the line, from the equipment to the floor.

“We found the best location, best equipment, and the best, safest indoor flooring. There was a lot of back and forth between the board members on what was out there and best for the children,” Manzella said.

And what is the best for the children is equipment that is both effective and fun, which is something Manzella has seemingly accomplished. The new gym will feature a mini rock climbing wall, a steam rolling ramp, climbing ladders, “mini trampolines,” and even a small zip line. Manzella believes all of these things will help work on spacial awareness and relieving anxiety.

The gym will be open sometime this fall and will be available to kids of all ages, and will most importantly be a safe place for kids to go, have fun, and most importantly blow off some possibly much needed steam.