With the help of her therapist, Amelia Schalk-Molson splashes around the Pathways Health Centre therapy pool like most other three-year-olds.
“She’s come such a long way,” says grandmother and guardian Melanie Schalk, watching with a smile from the pool deck.
As an infant, complications from open-heart surgery caused Amelia to lose mobility from the waist down. But the pool at Pathways has helped the little girl regain some of it from twice-weekly sessions, her grandma says.
“She has already defied the odds. The doctor said she wouldn’t be able to crawl or move her legs and she is just consistently improving since coming here.”
Amelia is one of 11,000 children, adults, and seniors who use the 140,000-litre salt-water pool for recreation and therapy each year.
But the pool itself is on life support.
It reopened this fall after a leak forced a nine-month shut down and some emergency repairs. But staff fears another catastrophic event is just around the corner.
So Pathways is attempting to raise $1.6 million for a complete rebuild of the 30-year-old pool, including the equipment, deck and change rooms.
The Rotary Club of Sarnia – a founding partner of Pathways – has responded with a $600,000 donation to get things started.
“When Rotary members heard about the need to revitalize the pool they were immediately interested,” club president Alison Mahon said at the campaign launch last week.
The goal is to raise the rest from the community and grants, said Pathways executive director Jenny Greensmith.
“We realize it’s a lot of money, but when you think about that value, for over 30 years, then it’s excellent value,” she said.
Keeping the pool operational throughout the process is a top priority so the repairs will be staged over several years with funds allocated as they come in, she added.
Much of the work needed is for the HVAC and mechanical systems, which are severely corroded from the pool’s salt water, she said.
The pool was converted from chemically treated fresh water to salt water a decade ago to reduce the skin irritation of clients and staff. But the poor state of pool equipment has forced staff to add chlorine to the mix these days anyway.