Break the Barriers
Celebrating awareness and victories of all abilities, ethnicities, and ages through exceptional programs, outreach, and inclusion education.
Awareness, Outreach, & Education
Break the Barriers shall continually maintain and improve inclusive programs through ability awareness, outreach, and education. With performances, assemblies, conferences, workshops, and clinics, Break the Barriers will promote integrated sports, health and fitness, performing arts, and education programs.
A Stewardship of Influence
We have been given a stewardship of influence in the world of inclusion. Therefore, Break The Barriers is dedicated to accelerating awareness, understanding, acceptance, and education for all people with various abilities.
We value each person equally, recognizing that we all have abilities and disabilities.
We collaborate our efforts to ensure that every child and adult achieves success.
We hold growth in quality, integrity and human values about size and profit.
We exist through the many blessings that we receive as a non-profit corporation. Therefore, we are committed to being good stewards of the wealth.
the highest standards
A Healthy & Safe Environment
We strive to attain the highest standards possible with a strong concern for the welfare of our members, supporters, staff and volunteers. Therefore, we provide a healthy and safe environment by incorporating a strict code of ethics, dress code and a zero tolerance policy for Break the Barriers events and programs. (No drugs, tobacco, alcohol, threats, bullying, fighting, physical or verbal assault.) As pioneers in the world of inclusion, we actively participate in all Communities to make a difference in our diverse would as we carry out the mission of Break the Barriers. We give thanks for this incredible opportunity and responsibility.
Deby began to dream of a place where all people could come and enjoy sports and activities together.It was not a dream born out of pity, but rather out of challenge and foresight.
The Birthing of a Dream
Deby Mullen Hergenrader, daughter of Ice Capades performers, Ken and Carmie Mullen, was born an athlete. After winning the State and Regional Championship Title, Deby reached the national level by age sixteen. When she reached the elite level, she became a National Gymnastics Champion and started competing internationally. If not for an ankle injury in the 1972 Olympic Trials, she may have competed in the Olympics. With gymnastics in her blood, Deby turned to coaching other up-and-coming gymnasts.
In 1960 Deby’s sister Kathy was born. Because Kathy had Down syndrome, people only saw her as “disabled” and excluded from sports and performing arts, simply because she looked and behaved a little differently. It was then that Deby began to dream of a place where all people could come and enjoy sports and activities together. It was not a dream born out of pity, but rather out of challenge and foresight.
Despite the lack of inclusion that Kathy experienced, she had numerous opportunities to watch Deby perform her gymnastics routines. Through emulation, Kathy was able to excel at the Special Olympics, becoming a four time International Special Olympics Champion. For Deby, Kathy’s amazing achievement became a catalyst for her relentless efforts to create a common bond between persons of all abilities.
I can build you a beam and find mats for you. Let’s break some barriers!– Steve Hergenrader
Out of the Dream Into Reality
Deby began to immerse herself in the complexities of people with various abilities by volunteering numerous hours coaching children and adults who had different physical, neurological, and developmental Abilities.
In 1975, Deby married Steve Hergenrader, a former professional baseball player who had signed with the New York Yankees. They both knew the benefits of sports and athletics, and it was Steve who asked Deby, “Are you going to dream about this our whole life together or are we going to do something? I can build you a beam and find mats for you. Let’s break some barriers!” In 1982, the Hergenraders found “the perfect house” in Fresno, California. They transformed one room into a dance studio and equipped their backyard to house gymnastics apparatus. By 1982, “Gymnastics by Deby” was created.
During this time, Deby was invited to serve on the National Special Olympics Gymnastics Committee to help add the sport of gymnastics to the Special Olympics’ sports list.
…instead of a competitive environment, students supported each other and grew in knowledge and skill.
Breaking the Barrier
When Steve and Deby observed community dance studios, gyms, self-defense classes, and baton twirling studios, they saw an overwhelming need for a program that integrated students and helped them learn from each other. The Hergenrader’s inclusive sports, performing arts and educational classes allowed students to learn together, resulting in barriers tumbling down. Students of all Abilities found a common ground and accomplished more than they ever believed possible.
In just one year, and without any advertising, classes grew to two hundred students, ages three years old to adult. In October, 1984, Break the Barriers was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation.
Break the Barriers is continually adapting classes to meet the increasing demand for this unique and one-of-a-kind program.
The Dream Lives On
In 1986, the Barrier Breaker team was formed. This performing group was made up of students and staff who had a heart for the mission of Break the Barriers and showed inclusion at its best. Through dance, gymnastics, martial arts, American Sign Language, stunts, and music, the team softened hearts, opened eyes, and generated hope for all people. The outreach of the Barrier Breakers was named “The National Role Model for Inclusion” by the US Department of Education and has helped change government policies in other countries, impacting over 200 million lives worldwide.
There are over 10,000 individuals who come through the doors of our facility weekly, including students from multiple school districts, inner-city outreach and Veterans. Break the Barriers is continually adapting classes to meet the increasing demand for this unique and one-of-a-kind program.
Effective June 2019, Steve and Deby passed the torch to the next generation. Their oldest son, Jared Hergenrader, has been empowered with many years of training and responsibility to carry on the job of Break the Barriers’ Chief Executive Officer. Jared’s love and passion for people and the ministry of Break the Barriers drives him to continue the legacy of his parents. With the support of the leaders and staff at Break the Barriers, Jared intends to carry out the goal of bringing hope, joy, and ability awareness to people in the Central Valley and around the world.
Steve and Deby Hergenrader—together with their two sons, Jared and Tyler, staff, and board of directors—have fostered a “family” of dedicated people who are instrumental in the tremendous success and acceptance of this program. Break the Barriers is truly a dream come true.