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Community Effort - Therapy Pool Project Navigates Rough Waters
Normal 0 0 1 26 150 oakdale leader 1 1 184 11.1287 0 0 0 Instructor Cheryl Bridges offers guidance to a client during a recent class hosted at the pool of the Best Western, Rama Inn. The W.E.T. class has met at this location since 2004. - photo by Photo Contributed

Oakdale Community Aquatic Therapy Foundation (OCATF) seems to be fighting an uphill battle. With the construction of the Oakdale High School pool in full swing, confusion between the OHS pool and the therapy pool seems to be imminent.

A soft economy coupled by the construction of the OHS pool has created fundraising challenges for the committee, admitted Pat Graham, OCATF vice-president. In addition to this, the planned location for the therapy pool, which is adjacent to the community pool, seems to have prompted further confusion.

“This pool has nothing to do with the existing pool,” Graham stated. “Because it will be an indoor, heated pool, which is fairly shallow. It is not a pool for swimming.”

The necessity for a therapy pool quickly became apparent in 2004 with the start of a water exercise class known as W.E.T (Water Exercise Together) sponsored by Oak Valley Hospital District and led by Cheryl Bridges, co-founder and instructor.

The heated pool at the Best Western Rama Inn has served as home for the class for the past six years. However, it is important to note, that since the group’s inception, Bridges has been consistently faced by a waiting list of community members interested in enrolling in the class.

Currently there are 146 persons from Oakdale, Riverbank, Escalon and many other surrounding communities taking advantage of the one-hour classes offered three times per week, twice each day.

According to Bridges, the class has maintained its popularity over the years and actually experienced increased interest with the closing of Modesto’s YMCA.

The current operating plan for the OCATF designates a portion of time in the morning for water exercise classes coupled with organization opportunities in the afternoon. Groups serving persons with multiple sclerosis, arthritis and diabetes would be among the many who might benefit from usage of the pool in the afternoons.

“We are currently working with multiple sclerosis and other groups for privileges,” Graham said.

“We are for all of the community, for all ages,” she added. “This is not just for seniors.”

Bridges readily agreed.

“I have a lot of young people in my class,” Bridges said of her W.E.T class enrollment.

Aside from the confusion between the OHS pool and this one, Graham cited support of the medical community as another vital component to seeing this dream realized.

“We are looking for support from the medical community,” she said. “We desperately need their support so we can raise the money to get halfway there.”

The two women shared that there are multiple “sponsors” who have committed to contributing to the pool construction once they are able to break ground. The largest hurdle for the group, however, seems to be reaching the groundbreaking. In order to do so they must raise $400,000 of their $800,000 goal. To date, they have raised 25 percent of the funds necessary for the groundbreaking.

Pointing out the need for the therapy pool, a stack of over one dozen letters of testimony were provided to The Leader by Bridges on behalf of her class.

Many highlight the “strengthening of their core and increased mobility,” as benefits received from taking the class.

Linda Longcor shared in her letter that the class was recommended by her VA Rheumatologist, Dr. Michael Lynon, based in Livermore.

“I hate to imagine what my condition would be without this therapeutic exercise,” she wrote.

Dahl Waters has been challenged by Parkinson’s disease, as well as multiple physical setbacks. As a result of the class, he reported improvements in not only his balance, but his walking as well.

But the 20-by-40 pool cannot be built unless the group raises the funds and that is where they need the help of the community.

“We have two people helping us with (applying for) grants,” Graham said. “The grant process is very challenging, but we’re keeping on it. We are researching everything we can find.”

Fundraising opportunities have also been ongoing for the group. Plans are set for a fundraising barbecue in June and a car show in the fall.

“Our fundraising is ongoing,” Graham stated. “That keeps on going all the time.”

The emphasis, both women said, needs to be for the community to understand this will be a facility for the community. It is not to be age or condition specific and is not limited strictly to the W.E.T classes. The goal is for it to be a pool that may be utilized by all persons with a need. The therapy pool plans to offer benefits to many, from pregnant moms to mom and toddler classes, to the athlete who has suffered an injury and would benefit from a water workout treatment.

“The word ‘community’ is very important,” Graham said of the facility title. “This is being done for the larger community of Oakdale and its surrounding cities.”

For additional information on the OCATF and its therapy pool project, call 847-1132. Donations may be sent to 1570 East F St., Suite A-202, Oakdale, CA  95361. OCATF is a 501c3 non-profit Foundation.