By Jennifer H. McInerney - Photography by Jack Foley
Patti Miller, the founder of Funtastics in North Scituate Village, remembers vividly (and fondly) the very first child who signed up for her gymnastics program in 1987—a 3-year-old girl named Siobhan. Fast-forward 33 years: Siobhan Karlberg now sits behind the Funtastics reception desk reminiscing with Miller about their three decades together—and how it all nearly came to an abrupt halt last summer.
“From my very first class, I was hooked,” Karlberg recalls of her childhood experience. She became a fixture on the mats, trampoline, balance beam and bars. As a teenager, Karlberg assumed the role of junior teacher, assisting younger students to master these same gymnastics skills, and continued teaching as an adult.
In addition to laying the foundation for future athletics, gymnastics teaches important life skills. “Students learn strength, coordination, flexibility, self-discipline, how to set goals, how to challenge themselves, and gain confidence and independence,” says Miller.
On March 13, 2020, Funtastics closed its doors in accordance with statewide COVID-19 shutdown protocols. Weeks of waiting turned into months, during which time the gymnastics equipment remained untouched except for regular cleaning and sanitizing.
“We were ready to reopen as soon as we were allowed to, but the reopening date kept getting pushed back again and again,” says Miller. According to the state’s reopening plan, Funtastics fit into Phase Three. With the Funtastics building lease looming, Miller faced the most difficult decision of her career. She held a staff meeting to inform her employees of her predicament. “I kept thinking to myself, ‘I’m going to be 65—what am I going to do?’ ” says Miller. “I wanted to remember Funtastics as it had always been, with lots of kids jumping, playing and running up to hug me and say, ‘Miss Patti, I did it!’”
Meanwhile Karlberg, who was away in Maine at the time, missed the meeting and had no idea that the fate of Funtastics hung in the balance. Afterward, Miller sent out an e-mail announcing the closure of her gymnastics business, prompting a flurry of calls and texts to Karlberg from concerned friends wondering what could be done to save the business.
Karlberg found herself in a state of denial, unable to imagine a future without Funtastics in it. Her husband, Jared, a local fisherman, encouraged her to embrace the moment as an opportunity she hadn’t previously considered, and suggested that she could take over the business. As stay-at-home mom of three children, ages 3, 4 and 6, Karlberg already had her hands full, but after careful (and quick) consideration, Karlberg decided to take the leap. “I realized that maybe it was meant to be,” says Karlberg. “This is my passion.”
Funtastics officially reopened its doors on September 21, with a modified schedule to accommodate deep disinfecting. There is currently a waitlist for classes. The gym offers recreational and competitive programs for kids in pre-school through age 18, which includes overall fitness conditioning, tumbling skills, and strength-building on a variety of gymnastic apparatus. There is also a “Ninja” class offered for children ages 3.5 to 8, “who want to jump, roll, flip, swing and climb in a safe environment with instruction.” The class includes a kung fu warm-up, obstacle courses and other challenges, as well as an introduction to martial arts. As Funtastics celebrates 34 years in business, Karlberg is happy to be continuing the legacy of her predecessor. For more information about Funtastics, visit funtasticsma.com.