Gymbus brings exercise to daycares

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 10, 2000

FERRIDAY, La. – Jimmy and Cathy Darden of Ferriday have gotten a lot of inquiries about the big bus that has been sitting in their driveway for the last few weeks.

&uot;I’ve been asked if it’s used to transport prisoners,&uot; said Jimmy Darden. &uot;Someone else asked if it’s a Tensas (Academy) Chiefs bus because it’s red and white.&uot;

Wonder no longer. The bus is the centerpiece of the Dardens’ new business, Jump ‘N’ Kids Gymbus.

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Inspired by similar programs in other areas — including one in Ruston that their 4-year-old granddaughter, Carly, attends — they bought a school bus, took out the seats and installed a padded floor and mini-sized gymnastic equipment covered with foam rubber.

One day a week, the pair drive the bus to local day care centers and, for $5 a session, the Dardens lead the children in stretches and warm-up exercises.

They then lead the children through a 30-minute exercise session on the equipment, helping them tumble down a foam incline, jump from cushion to cushion and even swing from pint-sized parallel bars.

The Dardens said the program’s goal is to instill in children a lifelong love of exercise while they are still young, thus preventing a multitude of health problems later in life.

All the children know, however, is that they’re having fun.

&uot;They get really excited on Fridays because they know the Gymbus is coming,&uot; said Judy Parham, manager of Mother Goose Day Care in Vidalia.

&uot;It’s all they talk about. It gives them something else to look forward to, and it’s good exercise.&uot;

For now, Jimmy and Cathy Darden — who work as a Concordia Parish sheriff’s deputy and a revolving loan fund administrator for the Macon Ridge Economic Development Region, respectively — are using their vacation days to take time off to travel to the centers.

However, they will need to add more personnel if the business continues to grow, Jimmy Darden said.