During senior night for Mount Si High School’s gymnastics team, Kathy Caro watched as a slideshow displayed photos of this year’s graduating class.
Caro, the co-owner of Mt. Si Gymnastics Academy, knew all of those seniors, each of which had at some point stopped by her gym.
“So many of those pictures were them in this gym,” she said. “Just watching them grow up and thrive over the years has been really fun.”
As Mt. Si Gymnastics celebrates its tenth anniversary this month, those seniors are another reminder of the hundreds of kids Caro and co-owner Amy Norton have mentored at their gym over the years.
“We have kids who have literally grown up in this gym,” Caro said. “We have kids on our gymnastics team now who are 11 so they were just barely walking when we opened and really they’ve been part of the gym since they’ve been able to walk.”
Today, the gym is busier than ever, serving over 600 kids. That is a far cry from when it opened in 2012 with just 17 students and little equipment, on the principle that there should be a gym in the Valley.
That principle is what spurred Caro and Norton into becoming unlikely partners and gym owners.
In 2012, Puget Sound Gymnastics — the only gym in the Valley — closed its North Bend location along Boalch Avenue and moved to Preston. That left Caro and Norton, who both had 10-year-old daughters on the gym’s team, unsure of what to do.
The two hardly knew each other when they sat at Caro’s kitchen table with their families one afternoon and both realized the other was thinking about opening a gym.
Caro, a former school teacher, had no gymnastics background. She wanted to keep a gym in the Valley and provide a space for their daughters, so she formed a partnership with Norton and bought Puget Sounds Gymnastics’ old space to open the Mt. Si Gymnastics Academy.
“It was kinda like a first date,” Caro said of the interaction. “Our girls are best friends and our families have been close over the years so we grew into this friendship.”
Within a year of opening, the gym was serving over 200 kids, and since then has added both space and coaches. Even today, after being hit hard by the pandemic the past two years and having been closed for nearly six months, the gym is as busy as ever with full classes and kids eager to be out and engaged.
“The whole business is all about relationships,” Caro said. “It’s not even so much about gymnastics as it is proving a safe place for kids where they love to come.”