By Chris Pickup
Some members are crying foul at the decision to dissolve the non-profit Cayuga Gym Club at the end of this season, saying they had no idea it was going to happen until after the decision had already been made.
The club has been a fixture in Cayuga for some forty years, training many young people in the sport.
Current president of the club, Angela Awde, said the decision to dissolve Cayuga Gymnastics Club had not come lightly and has involved a lot of discussion with the executive, club members and members of the community over the past year.
“At our annual meeting in March a motion was brought forward to dissolve the club at the end of the season by one of our club members, seconded by another club member and approved by all who attended the meeting. Prior to that motion we had discussed all of our options regarding the current situation we are in and how best to proceed.”
She did not however, outline exactly what the ‘current situation’ was.
A lot of dissatisfaction with the move is being expressed over social media by members of the Cayuga gymnastics community. During that interaction it became apparent there could have been more behind the decision.
Cayuga head coach and administrator Katie Whitwell is on the Cayuga club’s executive and is opening a private gymnastics club in Dunnville, named Rebounders. This has raised the question whether there was a conflict of interest involved in the vote.
In addition there was some indication the Cayuga club might be renting or selling some of its equipment to the Dunnville Rebounders. Since much of that equipment was bought with Trillium Grants applied for by the non-profit group, there was some question whether they had the right to sell to a private club.
When one of the original founders, Sheila Mozes, got wind of the dissolution she wrote to Awde.
“Has not only the current membership, but also the community of Cayuga and past friends of Cayuga Gymnastics been properly informed of this possibility of closing the club?’ she asked.
“I believe, in this case, with successful longevity of a popular Cayuga based non-profit sport organization, the whole community should have a timely chance to offer opinions and possible solutions to current members who would then determine the vote.”
Mozes acknowledged small communities like Cayuga often have difficulties with facilities, volunteer leadership and financial stability, and the constant need for set up and take down of equipment.
When the opportunity of available permanent space in Dunnville Secondary opened up, why did Cayuga Gymnastics not pursue the lease opportunity for their Dunnville program instead of Katie representing her interests in a private club? she asked.
“Was this question an executive operational decision or brought to the membership? Was conflict of interest declared in this situation as well?”
“Is the club just considering the sale of the equipment currently based in Dunnville or all the equipment of Cayuga Gymnastics? I can see selling off the surplus equipment in Dunnville to help start the new club but this should not impact on the equipment in Cayuga or cause the need to dissolve the whole club.
“I know often after assets are sold and accounts finalized, disbursement of funds goes to another charity or related non-profit sport program in the Cayuga community.
“I know when we first organized, this was discussed and because of our close association with school gymnastics it was thought that assets might go in that direction. The intent was not to have assets go to private ownership.”
“As one of the founders of Cayuga Gym, I enjoyed working enthusiastically as head coach and administrator for the first 15 years with the gymnasts, coaches, parents and volunteers to establish a very strong and respected non-profit club in the Cayuga and area community.
“We added competitive to our recreational boys and girls programs. We expanded to establish a Dunnville recreational satellite program along with our two Cayuga facilities.
“The club earned its name as ‘the biggest little gym club in Ontario’ in those years for not only our local involvement but also participation and leadership in Gymnastic Ontario program development and events.”
Most in the Cayuga gymnastics community had no issues with Whitwell opening up her own club, and in fact had wished her well, but the timing with the dissolution has raised the inevitable ethical question mark.