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I felt myself saying this in every children’s gym, play area, and restaurant where I took my son, Gabriel. For my child with autism, the over stimulation was always too much for him. Eventually, he would have a meltdown. We would be asked to leave, usually both in tears, and I would feel hopeless.
Around this time, I was renting out a local gym for private one-on-one sessions for Gabriel and his occupational therapist. I was speaking with the owner of the gym when she informed me that after 30 years, they were closing.
My entrepreneurial mind began racing. At this point, I had already transformed my bedroom into a gym for Gabriel at the suggestion of his OT. It was designed with sensory equipment and was immediately making an impact. He was sleeping better, eating better, and having fewer meltdowns. He wasn’t the only one who benefitted from the gym. My neurotypical daughter, Sophia, and her friends enjoyed the equipment as well. I knew this could be something bigger, and after the space became available, I thought “I need to create a gym with this type of equipment where children of ALL abilities can play and learn together.”
When I told my husband my plans, he asked, “what do you know about running a kid’s gym?”
“I know it’s what I was put on this earth to do,” I replied. “I know there must be other families like ours that need support and access to this equipment on a daily basis, like Gabriel.”
With that, I leased the space and filled it with the best-specialized therapy equipment available — a trampoline, zip line, bolster swing, and more!
In September 2010, I opened the doors to the first We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym. From the start, I wanted to make sure that our gym was affordable for the families that needed it. Instead of the $150/hour cost for private OT, our gym offered “Open Play” for just $12.
Within weeks, children with special needs and neurotypical children alike found safety and fulfillment within these four walls. Parents would come up to me in tears expressing how much it meant to just have a place where they felt at home bringing their child.
I began to realize the mission was bigger than my gym, bigger than my Tarzana community. Facebook messages and emails were pouring in from families asking when we were going to open up in their state. I knew we needed to open more gyms.
In 2013, we decided to franchise, and in less than six years we have more than 78 domestic locations in 19 States. Our rapid growth was attributed to the amazing warrior parents, therapists, and social entrepreneurs that believed in our mission enough to bring a We Rock the Spectrum to their respective communities. Our franchisees took the concept I started in my home and are now the heartbeat of a global movement.
I was determined to keep this momentum going. In 2016 we developed a sensory bus division of our services, We Rock on Wheels. This concept provides a lower cost entry for community leaders to become franchisees. The more leaders we bring on, the more children we can service. With our sensory buses, we are able to bring the We Rock the Spectrum experience directly to our customers.
Our next move was a global expansion. We opened our first international location in Ara Damansara, Malaysia in December 2016. Standing behind the ribbon as we opened the doors to our first location outside of the US, I looked out at my family and saw tears in my husband’s eyes. I remembered that first conversation we had about opening a gym in our hometown. To see the concept we started in our home flourish halfway across the world, I stood in awe thinking of how far we’ve come as a family and as a company.
Knowing my son and daughter could travel across the world and be at home in a We Rock the Spectrum emphasizes why our mission is so important. Our children need love and security. Whether in Tarzana, Malaysia, New York, or anywhere else, it is our purpose to provide families with the opportunity to walk into any of our gyms, exhale, and say…
– Dina Kimmel