Holly Forville, founder of Shelbyville SENSES Gym, honored as community hero

SHELBYVILLE, Ind.-- More and more families are dealing with autism and looking for hope.

When Holly Forville's grandson was diagnosed with autism, it was a challenge for the entire family. Holly says there was no continued physical or emotional therapy for children ages 1 - 6 in Indiana before they start school.

One day her daughter said, "Let's build a gym!"

That's exactly what Forville and her daughter set out to do. Within months, they received a grant and opened the Shelbyville SENSES Gym in February 2016.

"A sensory room promotes brain function," said Forville. "It aides in creativity it helps with language. The light room aids relaxation which is vital for emotional health."

For $6 a session, children come to to play and get comfortable with their senses and playing with others. Often parents are brought to tears watching their children grow and even interact in new ways.

The gym opened with 25 children and seven months later, they serve more than 150 families who come from all over the state, some even drive to Indiana from Chicago.

The results are miraculous. Children who were not interacting, concentrating, crawling or even playing with other children are making breakthroughs. Where parents didn't have hope, they now see the incredible possibilities for their children.

Forville says her own grandson is making breakthroughs as well.

"My grandson-- when we opened the place, the doctors said he had no imaginary play and now he pretends we’re dragons and he will play with the kitchen," she said.

Forville took all the research and input from experts and incorporated that into designing and building every single thing you see in the gym. Now, it is truly giving families hope.

"Being able to make a difference in my grandson's life is one thing, but being able to make a difference in other kids and families' lives is something I watched my parents do all my life and I’m glad to be able to take it a little bit further."

Community Health Network and FOX59 are happy to honor Holly Forville and the Shelbyville SENSES Gym as the September Community Hero!  For more information on sessions at the gym or how to support the gym's work, click here.