By Johnny Jackson
Three-year-old Carson Toenniges raced his mother to the top of a rubber slide.
As the smiling tot glided alongside his mother to the air-filled mat below, several other bright-eyed youngsters took turns playing on the various inflatable games at Woody's Jump n Play, in McDonough.
"It's a way for parents to interact with children at one place," said Fidel Woods, the 33-year-old owner of Woody's Jump n Play.
"Here, parents can jump, as well as slide, and interact with the kids," said Woods, of Hampton. "It's just to have a place where kids can go and be active -- a place to go when it's too cold or hot."
Woods said the indoor inflatables jump center is one of only a few of its kind in metro Atlanta. With eight different inflatable games, the jump center caters to children -- toddlers to 15-year-olds -- but also includes a WiFi Internet connection and cable television, for parents.
"Our goal is to promote a positive and safe environment for families," Woods said. He said, in some ways, the inflatables jump-center/park is safer than traditional playgrounds, because it has fewer hard surfaces in its climate-controlled environment.
During the holidays, the jump center, located at 1300 McDonough Place,saw large crowds of families, who, otherwise, might have been idle at home, staying in from the the wet and cold weather. Some days during that period, according to Woods, the jump center hosted as many as 50 families.
"It's a lot of fun, and they encourage the parents to participate," said McDonough resident, Jessica Toenniges. Toenniges has taken her 3-year-old, Carson, to the jump center six times since it opened last April. She said she hosted her son's third birthday party there and was able to involve the entire family.
"Even my grandparents were playing," Toenniges said. "I just like the kids to be active. It seems like a healthy choice. We'll probably have this next birthday party here."
There are few places nearby to entertain children when it is cold, hot or rainy, said Darrell and Desiree Lee, of McDonough. They have taken their 5-year-old daughter, Darcelle, to the jump center three times. They enjoy its close proximity to their home. Otherwise, they said, they would have to travel miles elsewhere to find similar entertainment.
"In good weather, we're at the park," said Desiree Lee. "But this is a good place to be when its cold and wet out. It's a place for her to burn off some energy."
The jump center, which employees seven full-and part-time staff members, is open seven days a week, with the exception of holidays. "The parents love it, and our staff is very friendly," said Woods, who said he is the father of three and came up with the idea for the jump center after viewing other entertainment facilities in the region.
"Having kids of my own, I saw how I could do it better," he said. Woods said he used his own money to open the jump center. It took nearly two years for his idea to be fully realized, according to Woods, who said he is also a distribution system operator at Georgia Power's Customer Care Center in Stockbridge.
The son of a lumberjack, Woods said he grew up on a small farm in rural Natchez, Miss., with the hopes of one day owning his own business. He said his family, which includes his wife of 11 years, Jackie, and three children, Zion, 9, Jireh, 8, and Josiah, 4, have been supportive of the center, and frequent the establishment themselves.
"It has been a success," he said. "We're getting ready to franchise. It's a lot of work, but it's fun."
On the net:
Woody's Jump n Play: www.woodysjumpplay.com