As a young girl, Gwen Hilliard was performing a partnered acrobatic routine at a school assembly when her father called out mid-performance: “Don’t you drop my daughter!” Young Gwen was so embarrassed that she gave up acrobatics altogether, but it always held a special place in her heart.

When her daughter Wendy showed talent and passion for gymnastics, Mrs. Hilliard worked tirelessly to find gymnastics classes for her in Detroit. Classes were limited in Detroit, so she drove her daughter to the suburbs where she found an excellent program at the Jewish Community Center led by the husband and wife team of Vladimir and Zina Mironov, Master of Sport coaches from the Soviet Union. When the travel and cost of this program became too much, Mrs. Hilliard convinced the head of the Detroit Recreation Department to hire the Mironovs and bring high quality gymnastics to the city. The result was the award-winning Detroit Metro Gymnasts (DMG) program, which developed National Champions, National Team Members, World Championship Competitors, and a two-time Olympian.Gwen Hilliard’s daughter, Gwendolyn “Wendy” Hilliard, followed the road her mother laid in recreating this program in New York City through the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation (WHGF).

In January 2019, WHGF launched free gymnastics at the newly renovated Detroit Recreation Department’s Kemeny Center, carrying Gwen Hilliard’s legacy forward. The WHGF also launched the Gwen Hilliard Gymnastics Legacy Fund to provide scholarships for training, classes and to support the WHGF’s free programs.