The Easter Seals pool at Camp Stand By Me has remained closed since last fall due to understaffing, as well as mechanical and maintenance issues.

“The pool is a main attraction for campers,” said Cathy Bisaillon, president and CEO of Easter Seals of Washington. “The pool serves two populations. The therapeutic pool has a lift and ramp to serve people with disabilities. It is highly heated to achieve physical and mental benefits they can’t get anywhere else.” Water aerobics have also been an important fitness program for adults, particularly seniors.

“The pool being out of commission is a problem,” Bisaillon said. “It provides benefits they can’t get at the YMCA. We had to make the hard decision to close.”

The pool closure has affected the mobility of former water aerobics member Leslie Bratspis. She tried the YMCA for a while, but was dissatisfied with the pool and exercise program there.

“The pool was too shallow,” Bratspis said. “Deep water is for swimming only. Swimmers and aerobics classes share the pool at the same time. The water wasn’t warm enough. I mostly sat in the Jacuzzi, so wasn’t getting exercise.

“I loved the classes at Camp Easter Seal,” she said. “I went there for four-and-a-half years. Our hourlong class was also a social gathering and very enjoyable. I miss it a lot, especially with this cold, damp winter. I hope it opens soon.”

“Our goal is to reopen to serve the community,” Bisaillon said. “We’ve broken our renovation project into two phases. If we accomplish phase one we will reopen. It has been very challenging to keep a staff lifeguard available. We also need a pool operator.”

The best option would be to have a lifeguard who has a pool operator license, she said. Camp Stand By Me would provide training for that position.

“I won’t let anyone in the pool without a lifeguard,” Bisaillon said. “Turnover kills the program. We need to raise $71,000 to accomplish the first phase of our goal. We’ve raised $60,000. We’ve already spent some. Money is still coming in.”

On April 11, Key Pen Parks approved a reimbursement grant for the pool work, according to board president Ed Robison.

“The grant is $6,500 toward the costs of making those improvements they need so they can open the pool back up to the public,” said Robison. “Those improvements include drain work, replacement of the heater system, and some associated work with the piping. They’re going to put lower energy demand heat pumps in as well.”

If all goes well with the completion of phase one, Easter Seals hopes donations will come in to begin phase two. That includes renovating the whole pool building, including replacing windows and enlarging locker rooms.

Camp Stand By Me is located at 17809 S. Vaughn Road. For more information, call 884-2722.

To make financial donations or inquire about lifeguard/pool operator positions, contact Easter Seals Corporate Office Development Director Kate Cofer at 360-649-8135, or kcofer@wa.easterseals.com. Contact Easter Seals CEO Cathy Bisaillon at 360-981-9263.

Easter Seals and its affiliate organizations are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.

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