Wendy Hilliard was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2008. She is the first African-American to represent the United States in international competition and remain on the Rhythmic Gymnastics National Team nine times.
The former Olympic gymnast is expanding her New York City-based foundation to Detroit because she is a product of the Detroit Recreation Department. She endured many personal challenges as she made history as a Hall of Fame rhythmic gymnast.
Hilliard decided to address the need for diversity in the gymnastics world by creating her own low-cost gymnastics program for urban youth. Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation provides inner-city children opportunities to participate in the sport.
The foundation has spent 20 years providing free and low-cost quality gymnastics for inner-city youth in New York. The Wayne State University graduate hopes the foundation will have the same impact with Detroit youth as it has in New York.
“I learned gymnastics in the Detroit community,” Hilliard said. “I want to expand there because I’m a Detroit girl.”
Hilliard will run the Detroit foundation the same way she runs the one in New York.
The foundation has produced gymnasts who compete on a national and international level. She hopes to have competitive gymnastics teams in Detroit.
Hilliard is thrilled to see African Americans at the top in international, world and Olympic competition.
But it’s the grassroots level that she wants to see an increase.
She blames the lack of diversity on the cost of training.
Hilliard takes pride in providing a place for black gymnasts to train.
“Many of the top gymnasts are the only, or one of the few, blacks in their gymnastic clubs where they train,” Hilliard said. “Many parents have told me how much they appreciate that there is a place for their child to take gymnastics where they do not have to be the only black gymnast. Gabby Douglas talks about that challenge in her book.”
Hilliard is excited to see what impact her foundation will have on Detroit.
“I want to help reshape the city of Detroit by providing affordable youth activities,” Hilliard said. “The foundation wants to ensure that aspiring athletes have an opportunity to succeed in gymnastics, as I did.
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