Might as well jump
On the first Tuesday of every month, Sky High Sports (11327 Folsom Boulevard in Rancho Cordova) hosts a Special Days for Kids With Special Needs event. For three hours, parents and therapists can bring their special needs child to a bounce fest in one of Sacramento's first trampoline gyms. The music is turned off and the ruckus kept to a minimum so that each kid may play at his her own pace.
Owner Jerry Raymond says he knows how important it is to have time dedicated to play and interaction in a safe and welcoming environment—he's raising a special-needs child and says he appreciates those moments when happiness and understanding go hand in hand. Raymond and his brother, Ron, own several Sky High Sports trampoline gyms across the country, with several more in the works to open soon. Raymond's dedication to exercise, family and fun are what keep him going in an economy that is trying to hold him back.
How did you get into the trampoline business?
Every day, my kids wanted to go to work with my wife because she was the manager of movie theaters. I owned a computer-consulting business, which didn't interest them much. My brother Ron and I agreed that we wanted to own a business where we could spend more time with our families; something we could all enjoy together. It's great to be able to share [this] affordable family fun and fitness with other health-conscious families around the country.
Why do you think it’s been successful?
Even during a bad economy, we've been able to grow. I think it proves that parents place a priority on family time even when budgets are tight.
We now have 15 locations across the [United States] with three more opening soon. We are fortunate.
How did you end up opening a franchise in Sacramento?
I live in the Bay Area with my wife, Yvette, and two of our three children. My brother Ron and I opened our first Sky High Sports in Santa Clara, [and] Sacramento was the obvious next choice because it's a terrific city and a great community to raise a family. Plus, we have lots of family there.
Tell us a little bit about your son.
When he was very young, my son was diagnosed to be on the Asperger's [syndrome] spectrum. He's very high-functioning, so we've been very fortunate. During grade school, he attended a private school that specialized in learning differences. Our main goal was making sure that he was always included with other kids—all kinds of kids. As long as his ability allowed him, he went out for team sports, which allowed him to be more integrated and socially adept.
Why did you decide to have a trampoline day reserved for special-needs kids?
Accommodating the special-needs community was always part of my business plan. Here's the thing: “Special” families need more places to play together. I'm filling a need that I understand as a parent. I'm really happy to be able to do that. My family has been jumping together since we opened our first Sky High location. Both of my younger boys took to it right away. Jumping … is terrific exercise and develops balance and coordination. It also helps in the development of social skills. It's good exercise for everyone, but it's so much fun, most kids don't even realize they're getting a workout. Exercise is important for all kids—including special-needs kids.
What kind of changes do you make on those days?
On any weekend day, the atmosphere at Sky High might make some kids uncomfortable, so on these special afternoons, we turn off the music, limit attendance and dial down as many distractions as we can. One of our trampoline courts is designated “especially quiet” for kids with sensory issues and kids with physical challenges.
During our special hours, families can relax and have fun with other like-minded families. We enjoy the camaraderie. While it's important for the kids to have an atmosphere where the distractions are dialed down, this is also fun and relaxing for the “neurotypical” siblings and parents. When you're here for special jump, no one has to explain why their brother “plays differently” than other kids. Parents can enjoy some regular time—I'm all about giving parents a break, too, because being a parent—of any child—can be exhausting.