THE widow of Huntingdon Gymnastics Club founder Terry Sharpington is supporting The Hunts Post appeal to help raise £100,000 for its much-needed extension.

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Jenny Sharpington spoke passionately about the Mayfield Road club set up by her husband almost 30 years ago and said he would be leading the fundraising if he was here today.

Mrs Sharpington retired from the club shortly after Terry’s death but keeps in close contact with staff and members.

She said: “The campaign is brilliant. I desperately hope it [the extension] goes ahead this time.

“I can see Terry now. He would just say ‘Come on, go for it! Roll your sleeves up and get on with it!’ He had a hands-on approach to everything. He was like a terrier. He’d get his teeth into something and he wouldn’t let go.”

Mrs Sharpington, 67, takes her granddaughters to the club every weekend and said she still gets a warm reception.

“They are wonderful to me,” she said. “Whenever I go to the gym the boys always give me a hug – they are not afraid to be demonstrative! They are just brilliant – I cry every time I read something about them. Happy tears, of course. Terry would be so proud – but not surprised. He knew the gym would accomplish great things.”

She continued: “For a number of years after Terry died, it was strange walking into the gym. I’d spent so much of my life there – every day, all day. I used to see Terry every time I walked through the door.

“Walking into the gym with my two grand-daughters, I feel I want to be back in it. There’s an atmosphere there. Everybody always comments on the atmosphere in our gym – and that’s Terry’s doing: he created that and it’s still there.”

She said that everyone in Huntingdon was connected to the club somehow and shared a sense of pride in its achievements.

“Everyone has a connection and they all have stories to tell. It’s not just about great gymnasts but how much the gym has done for thousands – not hundreds, thousands – of children’s lives. Over the years there were a few who could have ended up on the wrong side of the tracks but they came to the gym instead.

“It gives children a sense of self-worth. I think about my grand-daughters and every time they learn something new they are glowing with pride. It gives them a feeling of belonging, it’s like a big family – and children like to belong.

“Walking down the High Street, people still say ‘Hello Mrs S!’. I look at them and there they are, with almost grown-up children of their own, my gymnasts.”

She praised the gym’s head coach, Paul Hall, and said his recent MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list was “wonderful”.

“Paul always had the same sort of attitude as Terry,” she said. “He works very, very hard. I knew he was the one to carry on and asking him to take over was the best thing I ever did.”

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

Readers are already sending in donations and organising events to help raise funds for Huntingdon Gymnastics Club.

To get the ball rolling, The Hunts Post is teaming up with the club to organise a Sponsored Gym Safari for children under five.

The club’s coaches will set up a journey around the gym that little ones will love to complete – while helping to raise funds for the appeal.

The date, expected to be in early March, is to be confirmed but to register your interest and receive a sponsor form email news@huntspost.co.uk with Sponsored Gym Safari in the subject line.

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