It was the laughter of children that lured Jennifer Shrodes, of North Ogden, out of the corporate world.
After being at a desk job as an escrow officer for 11 years, Shrodes was on the lookout for a new career when she hired the Tumblebus for her son’s seventh birthday party.
Shrodes loved watching the children enjoy themselves and hearing their excited laughter inside the bus, which had been converted into a mini gymnasium on wheels.
When she discovered the owner was looking for a business partner, she said she was in.
Initially, Shrodes thought she would do the business part-time to supplement her regular income, but in November 2011, her partner decided to sell Shrodes the business completely.
The Tumblebus, owned by Shrodes and her husband, Robin, has become her full-time job.
“Now I hardly ever sit down,” Shrodes said, in contrast to her previous career. Although she enjoyed being an escrow officer, she said it did not present as many opportunities for high energy and laughter.
“This is teaching me how to have fun again and laugh while I am at work,” she said of her new role.
The joy that Shrodes finds in her work comes from helping kids have fun and teaching them to be healthy.
She drives the Tumblebus to day care centers, parks, events and parties, and provides programming in 30-minute increments. The time that the kids, ages 2 to 8, spend on the bus is structured and Shrodes uses different themes such as “beach party” or “circus” to keep it interesting.
The equipment is frequently rotated to include monkey bars, a zip line, climbing wall, bounce board, balancing beam, ropes, rings, tumbling pads, and a mini trampoline and exterior slide for private events.
Fun with fitness
Though she enjoys seeing the kids have a good time, it is more than just free-play time for them. “We start with a basic gymnastics program, and we keep the kids hopping for the full 30 minutes,” Shrodes said.
She helps the kids with assisted backflips, forward and backward somersaults and teaches them proper stretching. “We do a lot with hand-eye coordination and really work on their self-confidence,” she said.
“What first attracted me to the business was seeing the kids laugh the whole time,” Shrodes admits. But, now she has found a deeper reason for her work. She sees that a lot of kids are sedentary and this helps them have a positive experience with a basic exercise program.
“Physical awareness and health is becoming more important to me. It makes me feel good to know that I am helping in that way and having fun,” Shrodes said. And, it has helped her increase her physical fitness, too.
“This is definitely more physical activity than before. I don’t regret it at all. It has been the best transition.”
A change of scenery
Melissa Westbroek, manager of Let Them be Kids Childcare Center in Syracuse, said she was introduced to the Tumblebus by the previous owner last summer. Her child-care center receives a visit every other week.
“It gives some of the families something different to do. It gets the kids out of the classroom and into a different environment for a while,” she said.
Although the center involves the kids in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, such as kickball, walking, jump rope and other sports, Westbroek believes the bus offers something more than just exercise.
“(Shrodes) is very positive and encourages (the kids) in everything they do,” she said, noting that Shrodes is careful to recognize that things that seem small to adults are actually huge accomplishments for the kids.
“This is a great way to keep the kids active with something fun and different,” Westbroek said.
Genevieve Romero, director of Creative Times Academy in South Ogden, said she was skeptical at first because she is very germ-conscious and worried that the bus would be sweaty, stinky and otherwise unclean.
However, she is impressed with the care Shrodes takes to keep everything clean.
The kids wash their hands before and after using the equipment and Shrodes washes everything between uses.
“It is really fun. The kids look forward to it. It benefits them because they are actually tumbling and learning different skills than just running and playing,” Romero said.
Tumblebus services day care centers in Davis and Weber counties, and has traveled as far as Orem and Tooele for private events. The Tumblebus operates year-round with heating and air conditioning. To find out more, call 801-458-8287 or visit www.thetumblebus.com.