Some couples flip houses. Matt and Nicole Orban “flipped” their for-profit gym, turning it into Faith Flip, a nonprofit that offers gymnastics at no charge to pre-school through high-school age kids.
“We took a leap of faith and let God flip our gym. Now we get to teach our faith in Jesus and teach kids to flip,” said Matt Orban, who founded Faith Flip with his wife, Nicole, in July 2014.
Orban, who has been coaching gymnastics and cheerleading since 1996, said they were inspired by Christ Fit Gym in Bossier City, La. It’s a free, nonprofit gym founded by Billy Weatherall that depends on donations rather than membership fees and offers weekly Bible devotions.
The Orbans liked that idea and wondered if something similar would work at their gym in Longview.
“We tried different things for about a year, donating some money to missions, doing weekly Bible verses, even holding a church service on Sunday. Nothing seemed to be what God wanted us to do. We finally figured out that God wanted everything,” Orban said.
So he and his wife stopped charging for classes. Instead, they asked people to donate what they could.
“Some people can’t give at all. We have a donation box, so people contribute money there. They can also donate online,” he said.
Other people give things needed to keep the gym running: toilet paper, garbage bags and popsicles, for example. The gym has both paid staff and volunteers who help with classes or the devotionals offered with them.
“Nothing is required. We appreciate all the help, for sure,” Orban said. The gym operates purely on donations and sponsorships from local businesses.
Faith Flip offers beginner, intermediate and advanced gymnastics classes for pre-school through high-school age, and specializes in tumbling, trampoline and cheerleading. It also has parkour classes, which are popular with boys, Orban said, because they get to climb on things and jump from one obstacle to another.
The gym accepts new students year-round, and offers a competitive trampoline and tumbling team for boys and girls.
Erinn Walton has four children at Faith Flip – three girls aged 12, 9 and 8, and one boy, 5.
“They’ve all learned quite a bit. They’ve gained lots of skills, especially my older girls,” Walton said. Even her 5-year-old son is learning “patience and to wait his turn, to listen and follow instructions.”
“It’s a great motivator for them to get their [school] work done. They all love to go,” Walton said.
The Waltons had a 2-year-old son who passed away from cancer at the end of 2016. During his illness, though money was tight the other children continued to go to their Faith Flip classes because they were free.
“I really appreciate all the people who work there. They are very patient and kind. I also love that they have a Bible lesson as part of every gymnastics lesson,” she added.
Orban said it can be challenging to achieve certain gymnastic skills, but it gives students a great sense of confidence when they do.
“We want to help the kids of this community grow athletically and spiritually. We don’t want to limit that to just those who can afford it,” he said.
Where: 3923 Pals Pkwy | Longview, Texas 75604
President: Matt Orban
Vice President: Nicole Orban
Founded: July 2014
Number of Kids Served: About 500 pre-school through high-school age youths participate weekly
Information: (903) 758-5910, www.faithflip.us and on Facebook