Updated: Oct 22, 2020
I started gymnastics, cheer leading, twirling, and dance when I was about three years old. I went to a small gym and had the nicest teacher. Not only was she a patient, uplifting teacher, but she made us feel comfortable and confident, like we could do anything. We learned a lot from her and she took us to small scale competitions, and it was so much fun. She introduced me to small competitions on the weekends and I loved it! I knew this would something I wanted to do for a long time.
When it was time for me to start kindergarten, my parents enrolled me in a private school in the next town over. Luckily, we found a larger gym nearby with lots of well trained coaches. They had multiple trampolines, tumble tramps, party rooms, bars, beams, tumble floors, hard floors, rings, a rock wall, and a huge ball pit! I had never seen anything like it and knew this was exactly where I needed to be.
Even though I was nervous about a new gym and a new school, I was excited about new friends and a fresh start. Turns out, I already had friends at my school, and some of the kids even went to my gym!
The next year at gymnastics, we had a new girl join us. Her name was Kaitlyn. We hit it off immediately and she became my best friend. She also got along really well with another one of my friends and the three of us were inseparable at gymnastics class. Sometimes, we even had to do extra push ups because we couldn't keep our mouths shut. (of course ha!)
We waited for each other in the lobby everyday, always stretch next to each other, and line up together. I was so thankful to have found my two best friends. We quickly became each other's family. When you are little you always want your best friends to be your sisters. You never want to leave each other and you want to do everything together! Even though we were just three goofy little girls, we were very talented gymnasts, and that summer, we decided we were going to be Olympic Champions when we grew up.
When school started that August, I was ready to see all my friends. I looked forward to going to orientation the week before school every year. You get to dress cute, see your old friends, and find out about all the new kids joining your age group.
As I walked into the auditorium, I noticed a new girl talking to one of my teachers. She looked so familiar but I could only see the back of her head. When I went over to get a better look, it was Kaitlyn! OMG! I was so excited and I didn't even know she was enrolling at my school. I was so ecstatic! Not only was I going to get to see her after school for hours a week, but I would see her all day every day at school.
At school, our teachers tried their hardest to keep us as far away from each other as possible. We would talk, laugh, fight, get separated, but no matter how far part we were, we still found a way to communicate. Especially when we were fighting. When we were mad at each other you couldn't put us far enough away. One day, our little debacle was lasting longer than normal and as luck would have it, our teacher actually made us partners in a project. To top that off, our desks were turned so we were facing each other. Great. After about forty-five minutes however, we just busted out laughing. We were just silly little girls, and even though we weren't really sisters, we knew we were sisters at heart.
The most memorable day I ever had at gymnastics, or in my childhood for that matter, was when Kaitlyn and I both got called into the lobby in the middle of gym class. That wasn't exactly out of the ordinary. We were always getting called out for something. Sometimes we would get to laughing and talking too much and get in trouble, but when we saw both of our mothers faces from the waiting area, this felt more serious. Everyone looked serious. Our moms were looking at each other like they didn't even know what to say. You could cut the anxiety like a knife before someone finally spoke up.
Choking back tears, they began to slowly recall the best day of their lives. Explaining to us they recognized each other from the waiting room at the orphanage where they adopted us.
Come to find out, Kaitlyn was adopted too, at the same time, and she was my sister. My Gladney sister. Talk about a loss for words. We shared such a special bond by both being adopted from the same agency and had been in the same foster care together. That is how God works. He brought us all together. He knew we needed one another, and it was such a magical and special moment. Beat that Hallmark Channel! We just hugged each other and cried. Little girls always wish their best friend was their sister and on that particular day, I found out mine was. It was truly a gift from God. Best friends from gym, became best friends from school, and found out they were "Gladney Sisters".
We had been adopted from a huge orphanage called Edna Gladney, hours away from our small little town, and then here we were. Finding each other ten years later, all because our mothers had spoken in the lobby while waiting to take us home from the orphanage.
Of course, when word spread, the paper came to the gym and did a story on us. Edna Gladney has their own news magazine and they featured a story on us. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. The Olympics, the gym, Kaitlyn, all of it.
Here is the article from the magazine for those interested in reading it...
"We all have heard stories of chance meetings. Some lucky person finds their long lost brother or sister, adoptive children find their birth parents, even lost pets are reunited with their families. But this story of a chance meeting has a different twist.
The story begins this past summer when two mothers from different towns in east Texas enrolled their 7 year old daughters in the same gymnastics class.
The girls, Brooke Ashton Bradley and Kaitlyn Brooke Rhodes, became fast friends. In fact, they looked forward to their Tuesday/Thursday class.
Around 3 weeks ago, Kaitlyn was moved up to division 1 Competition. She was very excited about being promoted, but she did not like leaving Brooke.
Summer vacation ended and it was time for school. Kaitlyn was very nervous because it was her first time at a new school, and she was afraid that she would not make any friends. The second day there, Brooke and Kaitlyn discovered that they were in the same grade at the same private school. Life started looking up for these two and it only got better.
Last week Brooke was promoted to Division 1 Competition, and she did not want to go because of the very same feelings Kaitlyn felt on the first day of school. When she saw that Kaitlyn was in the class, her shyness quickly dissapeared and the two were back together.
All this time, Brooke's mother, Beverly, had a sneaking suspicion she knew Kaitlyn and her family. Last Tuesday, as Kay, Kaitlyn's mom, walked into the gym, she saw a familiar face but could not remember this mother's name.
"You don't remember me, do you Kay?" asked Beverly. Soon the two started talking about old times when they were new adoptive mothers is Gladney's East Texas Auxiliary. The girls were only 3 months apart and even though each family kept in touch with the auxiliary, they had gone their separate ways until this year.
It was so wonderful to see each other again and to find out the girls had become such fast friends without knowing that they were precious Gladney babies!
After class, we told both of the girls their heritage, and all they would do was giggle and smile at each other. The very next day at school their was a rumor, started by these two, that they were actually sisters.
As they began to explain why, it was amazing to see how Gladney touches every corner of our world. A teacher told them she had a niece and nephew from Gladney; someone else had a cousin. What a wonderful way to ease them into their own histories.
To end this wonderful story of chance meeting, the girls' gymnastic head coach, Chris McNabb, is planning to pair these two in Synchronized Trampoline. He too, has noticed their special bond of friendship.
In the year 2000, Trampoline will be one of the new sports added to the Summer Olympics' gymnastic events. So,... who knows, maybe 2004?"