This week’s Meet a Mom is Bibiana Pinto, the mom behind the H.O.P.E. Rhythmic Gymnastics program. Her amazing H.O.P.E. charity brings the sport to those who would ordinarily not have access to it. Here’s a bit more about this Riverside-based mom of two, her unique gymnastics school, her search for a new space and more:
Can you share a bit about your life in Greenwich?
I live in Riverside, CT, walking distance to Binney Park and Riverside Elementary school. My husband and I are from Brazil and moved to the USA in 2004 so my husband could pursue his MBA in Finance at the Wharton Business school at UPenn. In 2014 we moved to Riverside so our children Marcus (10) and Amanda (8) could attend this great public school district. We also chose Riverside because of the great international community.
Can you tell us a bit more about this wonderful sport?
Rhythmic Gymnastics (RG) is an Olympic sport in which individuals or groups of five girls manipulate one or two pieces of apparatus: rope, hoop, ball, clubs, ribbon and freehand (no apparatus). Rhythmic gymnastics is a sport that combines elements of ballet, gymnastics, dance, and apparatus manipulation. It requires focus, eye-hand coordination, flexibility, and a great commitment.
Can you share a bit about your charity organization?
H.O.P.E. – Humanitarian Organization for Physical Education (RG)- is a nonprofit organization in the State of Connecticut whose mission is to nurture young girls and help them blossom into strong, graceful women with a positive self-image through the beauty and discipline of Rhythmic Gymnastics.
I created H.O.P.E. in October 2016 to help underprivileged children to participate in a competitive Olympic sport through need-based scholarships and affordable classes, and also to make Rhythmic Gymnastics a more popular and affordable sport. At H.O.P.E., girls from families that can afford to take classes subsidize those who cannot pay for it.
That’s amazing! Can you please tell us a bit more about the program?
H.O.P.E. Rhythmic Gymnastics program is still very new and we had just 3 competition seasons at the base levels. Because of Corona Virus we had our 3rd season cut short. But even with no grants or any financial support, other what we make with classes, we were able to stand among the best and most exclusive clubs for the modality in the East Coast. We had amazing results for such a starter club – including state championships wins and other podium medals at international invitationals. I credit those results to the passion of our volunteer coach moms, our parent community, and my amazing team girls that found their passion at such young age.
I see H.O.P.E. so far as a moms cooperative. We are moms really invested in creating a program that will benefit not only our daughters, but many other girls who otherwise could not afford after school activities. I started the program with only 5 of my daughters preschool friends in a ballet studio, and quickly the word of mouth spread and we reached 70 girls enrolled in classes, from recreational to the competitive team.
Can you tell us a bit about your own impressive background in rhythmic gymnastics?
Several times, I was the Brazilian National Champion in groups (6 girls competing together in sync back then), and for 3 years I was part of the national team representing Brazil in two World Championships (Sarajevo, Iugoslavia 89 and Athens, Greece 91) and I was part of the first Brazilian group to conquer an international medal for Brazil on the modality, silver at the Pan American Games in Cuba 1991.
In the early 80’s, RG was a completely unknown sport, just starting to make its first appearances in the national scene. Since my family was not aware of RG by the time I was enrolled in Rhythmic Gymnastics classes simply because I was too young to do Artistic Gymnastics (the gymnastics Simone Biles does). I was only 5 and Artistic would only accept 7+ girls. I quickly fell in love with the sport and never left. From 5 years old to 17 years old, RG was my outlet of emotions and energy. I credit the lessons I learned from the sport to now have the resilience necessary to move abroad to a foreign country, adapt to a new culture and start a family so far away from my hometown and my family – and eventually make this country our own.
When my team didn’t make it to the Olympic Games in Barcelona 1992 I was disappointed and decided to quit. I took a completely different path away from the gym. I was off to be a Civil Engineer and never looked back.
How have you been working with students during COVID?
We closed in March H.O.P.E. offered online classes on Zoom. At first I was skeptical and not sure about the results. But after a month I was in awe with my girls’ progression.
Online classes open up a whole new world of opportunity. I always say to my girls: “when life gives you a lemon, you make a sweet lemonade”. And that is exactly what we have being doing lately.
We are taking advantage of online classes to seek more collaboration with teams around the world. That is solving a huge problem we have here in CT: Not enough coaches to really grow the program. Through Zoom we are being able to access coaches around the world and specially in Brazil, my home country.
With that in mind we partnered with Ritmo&Arte to create an amazing free international movement that we are calling RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS WITHOUT BORDERS. Cristiane Pinho (Founder and head coach of the Brazilian team Ritmo&Arte, with more than 20years of RG coaching experience and a highly respected RG Judge in Brazil) and I decided to expand Rhythmic Gymnastics’ reach free of charge. We are organizing international classes with clubs and coaches around the world. At each incremental class we have more gymnasts from more countries. We did 4 international classes already and the numbers are just going up! Last class we had almost 250 gymnasts attending. Classes are taught in Portuguese, Spanish, English, Italian and any other language needed depending on the countries enrolled. Now that we don’t have a gym available half of the team is practicing at my front yard for my neighbors delight and half on zoom platform from home. We are grateful for summer nice weather so we can buy some time to find a new home for H.O.P.E.
Anything else you’d like to share?
We were using the St Catherine of Siena Church’s Gymnasium until March. Because of the Covid-19 restrictions we are not being able to use it during the summer, and I am not sure if we will have the space in September to practice anymore as the whole building was rented out to a private school.
I am trying to find companies and organizations to sponsor our activities so I can reach more girls and make my program even bigger, bringing more empowering opportunities for girls.
Rhythmic Gymnastics requires a big space and high ceilings (20+ ft), like a basketball court. Rent for such facilities in Greenwich is really expensive and virtually unavailable for after school hours. Rent prices and lack of spaces is what prevents me from opening H.O.P.E. to more scholarship girls.
We want to make our program and Rhythmic Gymnastics known so we can find a sponsor, which would help us secure a dedicated facility so we can give the girls a proper and stable environment to keep the great work they have being doing in competitions, and also to introduce this amazing sport to many other girls in town and its surrounding communities at recreational level. We need a space with high ceilings and open areas, like a gym. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a gymnasium per se, although a gymnasium is ideal. It could be for example a warehouse with a gymnasium’s measurements, and at least 20ft ceilings. If anyone knows of a vacant place with these characteristics and would like to help our program please contact us!
Facebook HOPE RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS
We always like to support other local businesses. Would you please share your favorite local places to:
Get dinner with your family
Go for date night
YOGA AT HOME AND MY HUSBAND USES SPORTPLEX
Spend time outdoors
BINNEY PARK AND TOD’S POINT
Go shopping for yourself
The Essentials and Back 40 Mercantile
Go shopping for your kids
SWEET PEAS (Brazilian Pao de queijo and their salads are amazing!)