William “Bill” Cameron opened Owensboro Gymnast in 1976, bringing the community one of the first places for competitive gymnastics. Although a lot has evolved in the past 43 years, the vision of Owensboro Gymnast has not changed; preparing young athletes to reach their highest level of potential through practice, training and competing is a legacy that is still going strong.
In 1993, Owensboro Gymnast expanded to open up a fitness center changing the name to Owensboro Gym and Fitness Center. Local athletes received training not only in gymnastics, but in fundamentals that helped them in outdoor sports as well. Several gymnasts were trained in pole vaulting competing for their local high schools, scoring well at the state level and many went on to receive scholarships in college.
Lexie Owsley was one of those students. She competed in team gymnastics from a young age and when Bill began training girls to pole vault, Owsley started to compete for her school’s track and field team at Daviess County High school. She went on to receive a scholarship at Murray State University for pole vaulting. Owsley attributes much of her success to the foundation she received as a gymnast.
Owsley’s mom, Kandi Barr, a gymnastics instructor at Owensboro Gymnast, began bringing her daughters to class nearly 20 years ago. Owsley and her sister Kaley Bean would have never dreamed that one day they would own the business. When Cameron retired, Bean remembers wondering if the success of the business would continue.
“I didn’t think it would happen. I thought when Bill retired, the doors would just close. I never thought I’d be where I am today,” Bean said.
In early January 2018, the sisters officially took over Owensboro Gymnast and Fitness Center. Just a few weeks after they bought the business, tragedy struck. On Jan. 27, 2018, while gearing up for a birthday party, the gymnastic foam pit caught fire, spreading to the insulation and moving up the walls. Even when the fire was contained, black smoke was everywhere. Due to the smoke damage, most of the equipment was a total loss.
“I had nightmares about it for months. I was here and saw everything,” Bean said. “Lexie was gone to a gymnastics meet, not even in town. We only told her so much because we knew she was a couple of hours away and didn’t want to scare her.”
The business was closed for restoration work the entire month of February and March. Most of the mats, beams, bars and other equipment were flame retardant but the damage had already been done. The black smoke left residue that wouldn’t come out of soft surfaces. Soon the new owners found out that the insurance was going to cover it, and they could breathe a sigh of relief.
“Once the scariness and the worry of if we could get everything back the way it was supposed to be wore off, we still wondered about our clients,” Bean said. “There were times I wondered if everyone would come back to class.”
Bean’s fears would soon be completely relieved. When the business re-opened in April 2018 during spring break, the sisters had an open event to show the community all they had to offer. Over 100 kids attended.
“It was crazy. Not only did everyone come back, but with the new equipment, it was a blessing in disguise,” Bean said.
As far as future plans and dreams — Bean hopes to see the business keep getting bigger and growing and eventually be able to pass it down to her kids. Her daughter Claira started taking gymnastics at Owensboro Gymnast when she was just 2 years old. She joined the competition at the age of 5, the youngest competitor at each meet.
“Owensboro Gymnast has been my second home since I was 6 years old and teaching gymnastics is what makes my heart happy,” Owsley said. “To now be able to say me and my sister can continue this legacy is a blessing.”