The 2016 WHGF Gala Showcase

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This year’s gala really blew me away! For some reason I am very emotional. First, it was really, really wonderful.

The students, parents, staff, volunteers, HCZ Staff and guests all made for a truly amazing celebration of community gymnastics.

This was the first Gala held at the HCZ Armory. This facility is so spectacular. We have now done so many events together that the HCZ Staff, led by Darryl Boston and Kiana Terry so contributed to the success of the event.

My staff –oh, the WHGF Staff — you guys were on fire! I always drive them crazy- but they always come through.

Nikki Mills, the WHGF Gymnastics Supervisor, had the brunt of all of the last-minute craziness. Handling so much coming at her left and right- and Nikki loves structure and planning things in advance- so whoa- this event always is on that other side- but she keeps us together.

Halema came in and took care of business in her quiet way and she always does, and Osei (who never likes to be mentioned) did the same – not so quiet – but taking care of what was needed. We had our volunteers on hand to make this event run.

Head Volunteers Dorita and Melissa always just know what to do- along with Christine who always knows where to be. And Larry, our head of security – (with so any parents you need security) and to all who came in to help out–thank you so much!

Thanks to Jedia and Deloris – Team members and Junior Instructors – for doing such a great job with the music today.

Now to my gymnastics teachers and coaches—I salute you indeed. We had so many kids and so much going on. Rehearsal, march out, team performances.When the students marched out I was taken aback at how many were in this year’s show- I mean they kept on coming!

Tamika- Thank you so much for your organization and super positive energy. I was so impressed with the intermediate routine. I know our student and junior instructor Michelle, was the choreographer- but you instilled in her that confidence and and gave her the opportunity to shine. They looked so good in their red.

Aaron, thanks so much for taking care of the sound and stepping in wherever needed- it made such a difference. Your bar routine was very, very cool.

Alexis and Francesca – what a team! Thank you for cleaning up the team performances! I know I am always up in the team routines- but you both really came in and got them together and they were spectacular. Alexis thank you for putting your special touch on the rhythmic routines. Francesca thank you for making sure the artistic and T&T team members knew their timing and where to go.

Dennis – our go-to guy! Great choreography for the 6:30 class- I so enjoy seeing you develop as a choreographer. We all appreciate that you so graciously teach and support wherever needed. You were also very impressive leading the warm-up routine for over 150 students!

Stacie- you know how to come in and pull things off! The T&T team was so impressive.  Thanks for being right in there for the class routines. I so appreciate you leading off the staff performances – being able to see you fly on the trampoline was a treat for all.

Fabu – You were keeping all the kids together and the music and especially the artistic team routines. You along with Francesca have done an amazing job with our girls. They were so impressive and having opportunity for the audience to see how well trained they are was a true highlight.

Miss Joan- nobody knows how to work a crowd like you and to keep the kids in line- with your signature sweet talking style. After the staff performance of flying and flipping everywhere- your beautiful handstand was right on time!

To all the gymnastics students and pre-team athletes- I was so proud! So many personalities – so much sass and you all performed like champions. You were so excited- but you worked so hard to learn your routines, do your solos, cartwheels and dance moves. Rock stars- yes you are!

To the team — you were something to behold today. For the first time we did not have professional performers- you gave such incredible performances it was a milestone that you were able to carry the Gala with your skill and confidence. Yes, I get very tough the week leading up to the Gala- but you never let me down and you inspired the students, parents, guests and me too!

To the Parents- thank you for your patience and support for this event. It was hot, many of you had very young children and siblings for an almost 2-hour show and longer if you stayed around during the rehearsal.  Do know that our staff and I truly appreciate you and what it takes to get your child to class or practice. Also know that I am taking your recommendations to heart.

That is why I am emotional- because we have outgrown the Gala to include all of the classes, pre- team, team, special guests and awards all in a single event.

Next year we will most likely have at least two Galas divided by age so that the kids and parents can have more time to hang out and enjoy a shorter event. We will still have Showtime in Harlem all together – but for our 20th Year it was a Gala that I will always cherish.

– Wendy

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A New Project: Black Gymnasts in History

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Wendy 1986Welcome to the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation’s Black Gymnasts in History.

I am not a historian, but I have been around quite awhile and many of the gymnasts that will be featured I know them or their stories first hand.

It is an exciting time in gymnastics with 3-time World Champion Simone Biles following 2012 Olympic Champion Gabby Douglas.

This project over the month of February will highlight gymnasts and coaches in all forms of gymnastics who have made their mark in the sport.

I hope you will enjoy this project and we look forward to adding more in the future.

Gymnastics is a special sport – so difficult – yet so beautiful. To make it to the top takes years of hard work – but most importantly passion. It may have been lonely for some- but in the end the love of the sport of gymnastics always comes through.

Wendy Hilliard

First Black Rhythmic Gymnastics National Team Member
USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame
USA Gymnastics Master of Sport
First Black and first gymnast to serve as President of the Women’s Sports Foundation
Watch a video from Wendy’s induction into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame: https://vimeo.com/155316767

2016 is starting off with a bang!

Welcome to 2016! This new year is off and kicking, and it’s a big one for us!
We are already back in the gym after the holidays and all of our teams begin competing this weekend. We’re looking forward to the next few months, with our annual Harlem Gymnastics Invitational in February, the American Cup in New Jersey in March, and the upcoming selection of Team USA members for the Rio Olympic Games! It’s always thrilling to be in an Olympic year, and 2016 also marks another very special event: the WHGF is celebrating 20 years and expanding into Detroit! We are very excited!
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It’s only January 6, but we are working hard, gearing up for competition, looking for our space in Detroit, and working on new partnerships…Stay tuned!

The benefits of giving gymnastics

7a2554c0-660c-4b89-87dd-6203c6aa2145December is a time of reflection, and it’s fitting that one week after Thanksgiving, non-profits around the world celebrate #GivingTuesday. Each organization’s focus may differ, but it’s always about paying it forward.

Why do we do what we do at WHGF? Our mission is not only to improve the lives of our participants but also the lives of entire families.  It goes well beyond helping a child learn to flip–our programs give hundreds of families the strength and satisfaction of bringing joy and healthy lifestyles to their children.  Through hard work, we provide powerful lessons that benefit children for a lifetime. We can’t do this alone, and we’re so grateful to our sponsors and individual donors who make this possible.

– Wendy

How to make the most of the holidays

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Thanksgiving is a very big holiday for my family.
It is the one time of the year that we all gather from across the country.
We usually have anywhere from 25 to 40 folks at dinner – so there is a great amount of time spent in the kitchen over the entire weekend!
As you count your blessings,  also take the time to move- everyone young and old! Here are some tips for how to do just that:
–  It can be easy to get stuck in sedentary activities, such as watching TV, wrapping gifts, or cooking meals all day. Find activities that incorporate family time that involve more movement, such as playing board games or charades.
– Take activities outdoors if you can and make sure to get some fresh air.
– Go for a walk in between meals, even if it’s just for 10 to 15 minutes.
Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday season ahead!
~ Wendy

WHGF welcomes Joy Umenhofer of USA Gymnastics

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Last week, we were fortunate to have Joy Umenhofer of USA Gymnastics for a T&T workshop. WHGF has been part of USA Gymnastics’s Trampoline Development Program since 2013. The program aims to expand the USA’s Olympic pipeline by building trampoline programs at select sites by working directly with coaches and staff on a regular basis. We can’t wait to have you back, Joy!

Good luck Simone and Gabby — make history at Worlds in Glasgow!

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It is pretty amazing that Simone and Gabby are the U.S. representatives for the all-around in this year’s world championships. These two young ladies continue to break barriers and make gymnastics history. Simone may become the second female gymnast in history to win three World all-around titles, and the first to do so consecutively. Gabby becomes the first Olympic all-around champion to compete at a world championships since Yelena Davydova in 1981.

History is up for grabs in Glasgow. No matter the results, Team USA continues to lead the pack! Good luck, ladies!

WHGF attends 36th Annual Salute to Women in Sports

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With fellow gymnasts at the Athlete Summit; with fellow attendees at the WSF red carpet in New York City.

This week, the Women’s Sports Foundation held its 36th Annual Salute to Women in Sports! Every year, top athletes across all sports gather to celebrate current athletes as well as continue advocating and educating for the next, rising generation of athletes. This year, honorees included athletes from 18 sports and six countries. Congratulations to the winners: Serena Williams, Tatyana McFadden, Carli Lloyd, and Don Sabo!

– Wendy

A mom’s role in sports

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(With Women’s Sports Foundation CEO Deborah Slaner Larkin in New York City, October 2015)

I recently attended the M2Moms Conference in New York alongside the Women’s Sports Foundation. As a mother to two young boys who are very active in sports, and as a former athlete, I know firsthand that mothers are, indeed, the driving force when it comes to youth participation in athletics. According to research by the Women’s Sports Foundation, mothers tend to be “the most encouraging” voices among a young athlete’s supporters. When a child is actively involved in sports, it may lead to higher levels of family satisfaction. It’s a win-win for all. Moms, it may feel like your children “call the shots” when it comes to their activities, but don’t underestimate the importance of your support and encouragement.
– Wendy

From New York City to Detroit: WHGF is expanding in 2016

ZZfhbmMlt7sCSpViiBMHdRFr7w1smkpbBd_gLW3bRb8,JDSrdxb5oNHw6XRxb3Tt-K0fJWDxqDQIS2xSkHQ2Fgg,r-Es1VOUz8CZZS5nOdmTxBs2sRQg8zT-Y3qurmmLyZg,_nFyoQuV6wkdl6xP1j7BjW4ddByyZEC52S21Q6QwVh0,K--az7rmMPmEOobXi9m1Ul6hTVrwtRUX69y2-OQYjj0,Y2kqd7KeWy732Mn9reIThe timing couldn’t be more perfect—in 2016, an Olympic year and WHGF’s 20th anniversary—the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation is expanding, and will open a second location in Detroit, Michigan.

As a Detroit native, I benefited firsthand from the city’s athletic programs early in my rhythmic gymnastics career as a product of the Detroit Recreation Center. Now, as the city undertakes massive revitalization efforts, it’s more important than ever to make sure that those efforts include programs for the city’s youths.

Gymnastics, as a nontraditional sport, allows children the possibility to participate and move up more quickly than in super-competitive sports such as basketball and football. It also has numerous long-term benefits, and this expansion is a long-term investment in the demographic that needs it the most—and is often overlooked by developers during urban redevelopment. It is our hope that WHGF’s presence in Detroit will expand opportunities for children for years to come, just as it has for thousands of youths in Harlem.

– Wendy