Reporting by WVUA 23’s Libbi Farrow

The University of Alabama gymnastics team welcomed a special group of guests Wednesday afternoon in the Frances Smith Practice Facility.

The team hosted their annual holiday party for the children of the RISE Center. The RISE Center is located on UA’s campus and is dedicated to enriching the lives of infants and preschoolers with or without special needs.

They have had these memorable holiday parties together for more than 20 years, since 1996. Director Andi Gillen said the children are working on their therapy goals as well as having some fun.

“I think what makes it special is that we just have the support of athletics from the University of Alabama and [gymnastics head coach]Dana Duckworth and her team staff are amazing,” Gillen said. “It’s not just this party; it’s throughout the year they are checking in on us, the girls on the team are coming and volunteering at RISE and being a part and learning about what we do and I think that’s just a win for everybody.”

Gymnasts helped the children practice tricks on the equipment at their gym. Duckworth said she and the team are very blessed to be a part of something so special.

“To give back to the RISE program, that’s such a special program, and for our ladies to know, ‘You know what, this is what life’s about, the battles that we face,’” Duckworth said. “We have a whole theme this year about thorns and transformations and that is the road that’s paved to excellence and these little ones that get to go to the RISE school, they are paving their road to excellence as well.”

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