Mike Vandergaag (left)

Mike Vandergaag (left)

Swim program benefitting kids with all cognitive, physical abilities receives funding from foundation

A program offered by the pool that is responsible for helping children with all cognitive and physical abilities has received funding.

A program offered by the pool that is responsible for helping children with all cognitive and physical abilities has received funding from a local foundation to ensure it continues next season.

Earlier this year, the Bulkley Valley Community Foundation released its first round of grants for 2015. The Bulkley Valley Regional Pool was one of 19 organizations that received funding for various initiatives that benefit the community.

The pool was awarded the McEwen Endowment Fund to help continue Adaptive Aquatics, a free program that introduces children of all abilities to swimming.

“The benefits are getting kids in the water that wouldn’t necessarily get to the water because they either don’t have the support at home or within the school system,” said Tamara Gillis, facility programmer with the pool.

This is the second year the program has been running and they saw just under 30 kids from Telkwa, Walnut Park and Muheim elementary schools participate during the fall and spring sessions.

“Water is very therapeutic. When you’re in the water it has a relaxing motion and the body responds in a calming way,” said Gillis, noting they have a few kids in the program who have mobility issues.

“Any kids who have mobility issues, any joint, bone or [obesity] issues, being in the water takes the pressure off their skeletal system.”

During the Friday afternoon sessions, instructors play games with the kids to introduce them to the water, swimming and safety.

Mike Vandergaag, an instructor with the program, had seen first-hand how beneficial the program can be.

“Some of them were so nervous to get into the water, but now they’re just swimming around everywhere,” he said, adding that the kids’ listening skills have improved as well.

“They’re learning to act in a group setting and they’re learning all sorts of people skills and interacting with the public.”

Eight-year-old Ryder Euverman has been attending the program for weeks and said he looks forward to taking Friday afternoons off to go swimming.

“I like the part when you get to play the games,” said the Walnut Park student.

Nina Hamelin, a support worker who accompanies the children from Walnut Park to the pool every week, said it helps them develop important life skills as well.

“We had one girl, that was her first time ever introduced to the water and now she loves the water and there’s no fear there,” said Hamelin.

“With a lot of these other kids, it helps them with self-regulation too . . . It’s very therapeutic for large motor development, they don’t feel the weight of their body under the water.”

According to Don Chinnick, chair of the Bulkley Valley Community Foundation, the decision to subsidize Adaptive Aquatics was an easy one.

“We’ve been supporting our community in as many ways as possible. It’s exciting to see how these funds are helping other community groups prosper and move forward with different projects,” said Chinnick, noting that they had roughly 30 to 40 applications this year and $28,000 in funds to distribute.

If the pool did not receive the grant from the foundation, it would not be able to offer the program for free, added Gillis.

Part of the funding is used for the RAP (recreation access program) for low-income families to access the pool at a discounted rate.

The foundation also awarded grants to the Bulkley Valley Soccer Society to assist with the purchase of sun shelters and nets, St. Joseph’s School for playground fencing and Northwest Community College to provide bursaries to low-income adults.

The foundation has been around for more than 20 years and awards grants to organizations between the Kispiox Valley all the way to Granisle.