Special-needs children thrive at Kinetic Kids

Program provides recreational, sporting activities for kids

SAN ANTONIO – A group of 12 girls bounced across a spring floor, performing their gymnastic moves. 

They then moved to the vault and the balance beam. 

The girls are finding out about the challenges of competing in gymnastics, thanks to Kinetic Kids, an organization in San Antonio that helps children with disabilities get involved in all kinds of sports.

"They're here to be a kid. They're here to achieve their dreams," said Kinetic Kids co-executive director and co-founder Kacey Wernli.

Laila Cruz, 10, has been working out with the group for two years. Laila suffers from cerebral palsy, but she doesn't let the congenital disorder slow her down.

"It helps me get stronger and builds muscles for me," Laila said of doing gymnastics. "Makes me feel better about myself." 

Wernli said building positive reinforcement is an important goal for the children.

"We have children that start our programs with no self-esteem. They're shy. They're uncomfortable within their own skin," Wernli said. "(But) we see them come alive before our eyes."

Kinetic Kids, which started in 2001 with a few children playing T-ball, has grown to more than 2,700 athletes participating in more than 18 sporting activities.

Program director Amy Myers said Kinetic Kids is about getting children to set and achieve goals.

"To achieve not just things here in the gym, but to also know they can achieve things outside of the gym as well," she said.

About the Authors:

David Sears, a native San Antonian, has been at KSAT for more than 20 years.

David Ibañez has been managing editor of KSAT.com since the website's launch in October 2000.