Good Sports: Break the Barriers

May 4, 2013 12:22:42 AM PDT
Central Valley basketball fans weren't the only ones cheering on the Los Angeles Lakers last week. Game six of the San Antonio series would have been Thursday night at Staples Center, and for 40 gymnasts at Break the Barriers in Fresno, it would have meant a halftime performance in front of 20,000 fans.

"It's hard at first but when you keep practicing it gets easier and easier," said Jimmy Xiong.

"Getting to see everybody's faces when they say, 'Wow! That's really cool!'" answered Bailee Kitchen, when asked what's her favorite part of performing.

The troop performed at halftime of the Lakers-Warriors game at the Save Mart Center in October. The Lakers' director of entertainment was so impressed she called the last night of the regular season and asked to see the inspiring routine one last time.

"It changes my life," said Gymnastics Coach Rachael McCall. "They tell us we're going to go out and change people's minds and hearts and lives. But honestly I feel like I'm the one that's changed the most."

They could have changed a lot more people's outlook on life in Los Angeles, spreading their message of inclusion - no matter the ability or disability.

"We get to inspire them, to show them [their] ability," said Gymnastics Coach Kirstin Bangs. "To show them that everyone is equal and we all have an opportunity to do what we really try to."

Alas, the Lakers did not win the series. They didn't even win a game. But in reality, their fans may have lost out even more: The chance to watch some truly inspiring local gymnasts.

"Seeing people when they're not doing so well and helping them get better, and for them to help you when you're not feeling it, we just build each other up as we go," said McCall. "It's just an awesome feeling."

Carrying out their mission of celebrating the gifts and talents of all people, while softening the hearts of audiences, and generating hope.


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