TAMPA, Fla. — Regan O’Brian loves to see her gymnastics students conquer a new skill.
“Oh it’s so gratifying, being able to see them make those improvements, it’s so exciting,” O’Brian said.
She started coaching for CAN-DO Sports about a year ago.
The non-profit makes gymnastics more affordable for families who may not be able to afford it otherwise.
O’Brian is now giving back, coaching the next generation.
“It means so much to me because I used to do it," she said. "So being able to share the love with that and be able to build it up to what I used to love it as.”
As a senior, O’Brian is in her final year competing.
She started with CAN-DO at six years old and its taught her skills far beyond gymnastics.
“I always want to keep going, I always want to do this and I think, CAN-DO and the sport of gymnastics helped me with that -- you can stick with it, you can do it, no matter what happens, you got it,” O’Brian said.
CAN-DO’s executive director, Mary Campanello has seen countless athletes like O’Brian benefit from the program, which began in 1993.
“We’re really able to help scholarship kids, we never turn a child away that can’t afford it, we find a way to help them, we have lots of volunteers that help make our program successful,” Campanello said.
She knows first-hand how life-changing it can be, Campanello was once a student herself.
“Growing up, I’m the oldest of five siblings so finding a competitive and affordable program was very difficult at the time, our programming with our collaboration with the city of Tampa allows us to offer competitive and quality programs for a third of the cost,” Campanello explained.
CAN-DO now includes two facilities and several sports, including a dance program.
“We grew from one gym over at Wayne Papy to another gym over here at New Tampa and now we offer other sports with our Team Tampa family with gymnastics, softball, basketball and rowing,” Campanello said.
Making sports accessible to many families across Tampa Bay, and for many athletes like O’Brian, it becomes a part of their life forever.
Through coaching, she wants to make sure everyone has the chance she had.
“I hope that they always remain in love with gymnastics no matter where their journey takes them, I hope they always find their love with it, I hope they leave with having the best teammates in the world, and having the best experience they can because I know that’s what I’m leaving with,” O’Brian said.
As the name suggests, CAN-DO is giving athletes confidence they can achieve their dreams.