’These kids have goals now’: Mum's free gym class for teens
A GLADSTONE mother has opened her home to the region's troubled youth to keep them off the streets and promote healthy habits.
Penny Cooper opened her gym, Ironsyde Gym, 18 months ago but wanted to do something more for the community.
The gym is free of charge for 13 to 18-year-olds to allow younger residents from lower socio-economic backgrounds to access it.
'Not one of these kids could afford to go to the gym," Ms Cooper said.
"It's a huge industrial town but it's a hugely low-income town at the same time.
"You're either one end of the scale or the other, and most of these kids are at the low end," she said.
The program encourages teenagers to get off the streets and into a supportive environment.
Teenagers must follow a set of rules in order to stay in the program.
The rules include no alcohol, no drinking, no criminal activity and they have to pass school.
"On a Friday night our gym is absolutely packed, and it's nice knowing they're here and not out drinking," she said.
Ms Cooper said so far she's seen extaordinary results in all of the teenagers, including one who has autism.
"These kids have goals now," she said.
"Blake's got a weightlifting competition coming up, Dylan and Travis are training for a fight together."
Blake Neumann is one of the 15 teens who have benefitted from the program during the past eight months.
"I've definitely seen a confidence boost in myself, and my mood has definitely improved since I've started working out," Blake said.
Ms Cooper said the group had become a "little family" and had grown close to her own four children.
"I think sometimes I'm more of a mum to these guys than I want to be," she said.
"I don't want to seem old, but it's good that they come here and talk about everything."
Free classes are open to those between the ages of 13-18.
Regular memberships are also offered.
Classes are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4pm. To book a class, call Penny Cooper on 0473 584 028.