Today we’d like to introduce you to Trey and Nikki Wooton.
Hi Trey and Nikki, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Nikki is a teacher but have been a stay-at-home-mom for years. Because of our son being on the autism spectrum and getting overwhelmed at the typical play places, we became aware of a need in our community for a safe place where all kids – especially kids with special needs- could play with others in an inclusive, judgment-free atmosphere. As parents, it was hard to take our son to the regular places because he would get so overwhelmed so quickly. Most places aren’t created with the special needs child in mind. We weren’t sure how to fulfill this need until 2016 when we saw a billboard in Missouri that was advertising a We Rock the Spectrum. We looked into bringing one to our county, but it wasn’t the right time. Late 2018, we looked into it again and started the process. Our desire to serve the special needs community by providing an inclusive place to play was stronger than the many different obstacles. We began construction in the Fall of 2019. Even then, we had issues with construction and our timeline was extended. Finally, we announced our grand opening for April. A week later, we canceled the grand opening and braced for the unknown as COVID19 spread across the world. We were finally able to open on June 1, 2020 for private rentals to give families a safe and clean option to play. As things opened up more, we were able to offer more. We are beginning to see the fruition of our hard work and perseverance from this past year. As COVID is settling, more people are finding out about us and checking us out. The mission of inclusion and being a safe place for all is definitely evident in our day to day business.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It most definitely has not been a smooth ride. Our opening was initially set back a month or so because of some construction hurdles. Once we could finally see the end of construction and began planning our grand opening, COVID happened. Our April grand opening was canceled. We were finally able to open with less grandeur on June 1. We initially opened with private rentals where families or small groups could come to the gym and play with just their group. Since we opened during the pandemic, we have struggled in the aspect of families being comfortable going into public places indoors. Once they come into our facility, they realize how clean and safe the gym really is. As things opened up more, we now offer public open play and birthday parties. The biggest challenge we face now is people knowing that we are open and are for all kids. We have been relying on people who come into the gym to share their experiences on social media. Another obstacle, of course, has been the financial burden of still paying bills when things didn’t start off as well as they should have. But things are getting better.
As you know, we’re big fans of We Rock the Spectrum – Forest Hill. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
We Rock the Spectrum is a sensory gym for all kids of all abilities. This means that we provide a safe and inclusive place for parents to bring their kids to play. Our gym caters to kids with autism and other special needs, but neurotypical and special needs kids both come and play. All kids need sensory input. All kids need a place to run, jump, spin, swing, and climb where the parents don’t have to worry about them. The parents love that they can play and interact as well. Our gym has become a place where families meet up for playdates and many friendships have been formed at our gym this past year as well. We have had many parents share how thankful they are for We Rock providing a one-of-a-kind environment during the pandemic. We have connected with many professionals who work with kids and families with special needs to form a network of support. We are a meeting and training place for county and community agencies. The community college has incorporated us into their intern partnership program. We are working on a few other partnerships with community agencies to provide volunteer and employment opportunities for teens and adults with special needs. Since we have been open, the community has embraced us as a place of inclusion. We have been able to bring more awareness to the idea of all abilities working and playing together.
We offer Open Play for families to come in and play alongside other families six days a week. We also offer Private Rentals where one group can enjoy the gym for themselves. Private Birthday Parties are the center of our weekends. We are beginning to offer classes, special events, toddler times, parent’s night outs, and more. We are most proud of the fact that we are inclusive and “Finally a place you never have to say I’m sorry.” We are for ALL kids and ALL abilities.
Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
The thing that works well for us is just making relationships. We have been reaching out to professionals and sharing who we are and what we are doing for the community. We talk to our families who come in and listen to ideas they have or connect with people they know. Before we even opened, we were contacting and meeting with anyone who would give us a minute to share what we are doing. We are willing talk to and share our story with anyone who will listen.
- Open Play: $14 for one child / $12 siblings
- Private Rentals: $60 for 1hr / $90 for 1.5hrs
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.werockthespectrumforesthill.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wrtsforesthill/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WRTSForestHill
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/we-rock-the-spectrum-forest-hill-forest-hill?osq=we+rock+the+spectrum