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Aquatic Therapy Pool Project Navigates Rough Waters
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Designed with the needs of the greater community at large in mind, the 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. 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 Riverbank, Oakdale, 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.

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.