Donegal woman Sarah Gillespie turned around a horrific life experience to create RINKA, an avenue for all kids to enjoy fitness
Sarah Gillespie, a native of Donegal Town, oozes with positivity and energy and is the driving force behind RINKA (rinka.ie) – a new craze for kids which is inspired by the glaring need to promote health, fitness and confidence in children.
She featured on RTE’s Dragon’s Den last year and describes the new style of non-competitive fitness activity as “an alternative to mainstream sport which embraces kids of all abilities”.
The enterprising Donegal Town native has firmly established the Rinka brand in her home county and is now franchising her business model across Ireland, with 13 nationwide instructors now teaching the fun-filled and energetic classes.
“Rinka is completely non-competitive and is designed to give all young children the confidence to take part in sport while also giving them a chance to just giggle and have fun”, says Sarah.
“It’s an opportunity for children, regardless of skill or background, to burn some energy, have some fun, learn new skills and make new friends. It is designed to combat rising child obesity levels and help boost children’s confidence by encouraging them to believe that they can take part in whatever activity they choose.
“With Rinka, kids gain fitness through drama, dance and general activities – they’re working out without even knowing it and it’s always inclusive so no one ever feels left out.”
Sarah believes that there must be a move away from the elite and competitive approach to sports and fitness if we are to have any success in beating childhood obesity.
“Children can’t be afraid to take part, they need to see fitness as an easy, enjoyable, everyday activity.”
While RINKA is all about energy and positivity now, it was a trying road that led to its creation. In 2010, Sarah was involved in a horrific car accident that she very nearly didn’t come out of in one piece. “It was horrendous. The memories are ones that will never leave me. But I am a firm believer in things happening for a reason and know how lucky I am to be here!”
“I was told at the time of the crash that I would not have survived had I not been as fit as I was.”
Sarah, who was training to be a personal trainer and sports therapist at the time of the accident, had been a competitive dancer all her life and attributes her fitness to her dance. “I was just weeks out from competing in the World Championships at the time of the crash and was as fit as a fiddle,” Sarah says.
‘I was lucky’, says Sarah. ‘I loved to dance and always did. I never had to worry about finding a sport or activity that kept me fit and that I enjoyed. But what about the kids out there that didn’t have that interest? I used my negative experience and turned it around to create RINKA, an avenue for all kids to enjoy fitness’.
Rinka offers three fun-filled fitness and child development programmes – Drama Fit and Bounce and Rinka Dance. Drama Fit has all the creative elements of a drama and theatre class combined with the high-energy dynamics of a workout. Bounce is a high energy, multi-activity class that includes gymnastic moves, relays races, obstacle courses and general sport skills. Rinka Dance is a non-competitive form of Irish Dance which teaches kids all the traditional steps without any of the makeup, wigs, dresses or feises!
There are currently 13 branches of RINKA across the country, with local instructors all across Co Donegal all teaching weekly classes and summer camps
Donegal Town and surrounding areas: Sarah Gillespie 087 750 9230 FB: theenergyhub/rinka.ie
Kilcar, Glenties, Killybegs, Carrick and Glen: Ciara Kearns 087 750 4633 FB: rinkasouthdonegal
Letterkenny and Newtown: Sarah-Marie McDevitt 086 790 0554 FB: rinkaletterkenny
Milford, Kerrykeel, Fanad, Termon: Teresa Donohoe 086 084 8312 FB: rinkamilford
Finn Valley: Tasha Merritt 086 847 5793 FB: bouncekidsfitnesswithtasha
New instructors are currently being sought to help bring the Rinka experience of Donegal to children all over the island of Ireland.
“We’re looking for new instructors everywhere from Belfast to Cork and Dublin to Galway. No experience is required to become a Rinka franchisee as all the essential skills are provided in our training programmes.