For Jennifer Kraus and her three daughters, the Minnetonka-Hopkins Gymnastics Association has been a place to learn new skills, stay active and build lifelong connections over the past couple of decades. While the non-profit organization has seen changes in location, leadership and programming, it has remained a fixture in the community for many families for 40 years. “It’s definitely a second home,” Kraus says.
Mini-Hops got started as a Minnetonka-Hopkins community education program and split off as its own entity in 1976 to accommodate increasing demand. While it began as a gymnastics-only organization, Mini-Hops has grown to offer a wide range of programs including rhythmic, competitive and recreational gymnastics, dance classes, karate, adaptive programming, camps, special events and birthday parties. Since 2011, it has also offered an academic preschool that executive director Michaela Chelberg says people call their “best-kept secret.”
The organization has consistently grown over the years and moved this past winter to a larger space in Plymouth from its old location in Minnetonka. The new 48,000-square-foot space—compared to 18,000 previously—has allowed for the continued expansion of programs. Chelberg, who has been with Mini-Hops for 17 years, says the class program served 300 kids when she first started, compared to 1,500 today.
In addition to its nonprofit status, which helps Mini-Hops bolster programming and offer top-notch staff education, the organization sets itself apart as a “one stop shop” for kids' activities, marketing and communications manager Jessica Chavez says. Along with its regular programs, Mini-Hops focuses on mentoring young people through internships that often lead to assistant coaching jobs.
Kraus’s daughters Keyla, 23, Kenzie, 20, and Kwinn, 18, have all gone on to intern and work as instructors after participating in its programs. While each has taken breaks here and there for school or other activities, Kwinn says Mini-Hops has been supportive about making sure they can stay involved despite gaps. “Even as coaches, your directors want you to be able to achieve your goals,” Kwinn says.
Jennifer Kraus, who has served on the board of directors as club vice-president and president, and now works at the front desk, says the organization does a great job of getting kids involved from an early age, “not necessarily to make them lifelong gymnasts, but to give them lifelong skills,” she says. “And that’s palpable when you walk into that gym.”
Mini-Hops is committed to fostering strong relationships not only with participating kids, but with parents and families as well. “We’ve created great relationships with families that believe in us, and we believe in them,” Chelberg says. “It takes a village to raise the children and we’re a part of their village.”
Becky Brandt, whose children Christian, Alissa and Anna have all been participating at Mini-Hops for years, says the staff has always taken a personal approach with her family. Christian, who was diagnosed with autism at a young age, has found Mini-Hops classes to be a great place to stay active and enjoy time with peers in a supportive environment. From classes to gymnastics and camps, Brandt’s kids all look forward to their various activities at Mini-Hops. “It’s been so great for our family,” Brandt says.
With 40 years under its belt and a new and improved home in Plymouth, Mini-Hops will continue to offer family-oriented programs for years to come.
40th Anniversary Event
- Saturday, August 6 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., public welcome from 1-3 p.m.
- The event will feature activities for kids, information for parents and the opportunity to explore the facility and see all that Mini-Hops has to offer.