Pay It Forward flips over longtime Geneseo gymnastics coach

GENESEO, Illinois -  Youngsters at the Geneseo Community Center are just head over heels about gymnastics these days.

They're twisting, tumbling, taking chances and building confidence with Coach Chris Ward.

"Learning to flip and trust yourself in the air going backwards and upside down, you have to trust in yourself," she said.

Moline High Spanish teacher and Cheerleading Coach Sam Noble is one of the program's many successful alums.

"They spend countless hours on the road, in the gym and traveling to competitions," said Noble.

Reasons why Noble recently returned to Geneseo to present a Pay It Forward award.

"Sam, thank you so much for nominating Chris for Pay It Forward," said Travis Kershaw, Ascentra Credit Union. "Her dedication to the children in this community is a shining example of listening, caring and doing what's right, what we stand for at Ascentra. That's why we're happy to give you $300, so that you can Pay It Forward to Chris."

Just moments later, Sam is about to surprise her former coach.

"On behalf of WQAD News Eight and Ascentra Credit Union, I'd like to give you $300 to Pay It Forward to the community because you've been such a great influence to me and everyone sitting right here," Noble said.

Ward, who coaches with her husband, Larry, received an ovation from her students.

"This is so meaningful," she said.  "I just love gymnastics and the community of Geneseo."

Chris and Larry were recently recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Illinois USA Gymnastics to honor their 45 years of coaching.

They still have a passion for the sport.

"We try to instill, first of all, to be a good person and be a good gymnast second," she said.

There's dedication, discipline and lots of practice.

"You can see the love of the sport continue here in Geneseo," Noble said.  "Continue on with their legacy."

This three-ring circus really stays in balance as it builds life skills for young gymnasts.

"If you do something long enough, and you hold true to your principles, eventually you get to see the fruit of your work by the people that are developed," Chris concluded.  "That's the best thing."