SILOAM SPRINGS – A couple from Siloam Springs are working on building a children’s activity center to give local youngsters a place to play.
Gina Mayhew and her husband Cory came up with the idea after adopting several foster children and taking them to the indoor playground at the Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville until the playground closed.
“We needed a place where families could hang out and build relationships,” Gina Mayhew said. “We just want a place to celebrate healthy family choices and organize activities.”
The couple worked with children from difficult backgrounds and always looked for places to take their young charges, Mayhew said. The problem they encountered was that in many places children of all ages met other children on a regular basis.
This led them to consider starting their own center in Siloam Springs. Mayhew described his concept by saying that their center would have multiple areas for different age groups. In Kids Gym, there would be areas for different ages: newborn to toddler, kindergarten to second grade and third to sixth grade, she said.
“We have stages of development and padding would split the stages,” she said.
There would be an inflatable obstacle course for children, as well as other activities for different developmental stages and projectors that would display mobile games for children, Mayhew said.
In addition to having a safe environment for children, she also plans to have treadmills for parents to use while their children play, as well as ellipticals and sofas. The stations for the children will be located in the center of the building while the parents will have their stations on the perimeters so that they can supervise their children.
Mayhew said there will also be a teen area off to the side, which will house a basketball court and half a football court as well as party rooms. The center will also organize group days for children from schools and organizations to come and play.
They want people to know there will be no childcare available so families can interact with each other, she said.
When it came time to get inspired for their center, they turned to the Jones Center in Springdale.
“The Jones Center is an inspiration of what a city could have,” Mayhew said. “The idea behind what the Jones Center does for the community is our inspiration.”
She was quick to point out that Kids Gym will not have the same activities as the Jones Center.
Kids Gym is a labor of love, Mayhew said. The couple have spent the 6 1/2 years of their lives working on Kids Gym, sacrificing date nights to do research and vacations to visit other youth activity centers to have fun. ideas for their center, she said.
So far, the couple have obtained their 501(c)3 and launched their website kidsgymsiloam.com. The Mayhews have already spent $25,000 of their own money and are still looking for more funds.
In order to raise funds, the Mayhews are launching a weight loss challenge on Instagram. For every 20 pounds the couple loses, participants offer them $20. Entrants can follow the couple’s challenge at WatchUsShrink72761 on Instagram.
They have approached Playtime LLC for equipment donations and are looking for a building to house the facilities.
According to Mayhew, Playtime LLC created the Woodland Hills Mall children’s playground in Tulsa, Okla. They specialize in the DuraSoft Safety flooring system, which meets certain safety requirements.
In order to house what they are looking to build, they would need a building with about 30,000 square feet of space, Mayhew said.
In addition to funds, they are looking for volunteers, she said. The couple are looking for grant writers and volunteers who can help with maintenance needs like drywall and plumbing, as well as work with children.
“We’re not looking to feel the pressure that their whole life depends on it, but it’s a community center, and how great would it be for the community to come together?” said Mayhew.
They’re also looking to have a panel of kids who could weigh in on what they want to see at Kids Gym, Mayhew said.
“We want to make sure it’s here for the people of Siloam,” she said.
For more information about Kids Gym or how to donate, visit kidsgymsiloam.com.