All Swimmers on Deck
Entering the indoor swimming pool at LifeTown, a visitor may be struck by the eye-catching tile and design, and the brightly colored spray jets – yet it is the total accessibility, with the zero-entry and an aquatic wheelchair, along with sound absorbent ceiling and minimal difference in temperature inside and out, which means this pool is for everyone.
On one typical day during the summer in the weeks following the pool’s completion, some early visitors to the pool shrieked with joy as they entered; one boy entered gingerly with a flotation device holding tightly to his volunteer; another went in using the wheelchair, and once in the water, took advantage of its buoyancy to leave the wheelchair behind; an exuberant ten-year-old swam about, and told a visitor the pool was his favorite part of his camp day.
A number of children experienced the joy of swimming for the first time in the LifeTown pool; other children conquered a fear of water over the weeks of summer camp.
On October 25, Olympic gold medal swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg joined Friendship Circle families, fans, and VIPs to dedicate the Diane and Robert Goldberg Pool and Jacobs Aquatic Therapy with a ribbon cutting ceremony and a celebratory dinner.
“Kids with special needs will benefit greatly from the pool,” said Bruce Jacobs, whose grandson Benji Lazer participates in Friendship Circle programs. “Kids can get particular kinds of therapy and exercise in the pool they can’t access any other way.”
As everyone joined together on the pool deck, where the lifeguard was on duty, as always, an array of inflated beach balls decorated the water and the jets turned on, creating an inviting atmosphere. Invisible to the eye, the saltwater pool also features an “endless pool,” a current that enables exercise and fun at the edge of the pool.
“When I heard about this facility, I just knew I wanted to come see it and be part of the dedication,” Krayzelburg told a visitor. After retiring from competitive swimming, he founded the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy in California, with branches around the country. He has seen firsthand the impact a pool can have on children and adults with special needs.
“Swimming teaches confidence. It builds self-esteem and belief in yourself. We’ve seen so many times working with children with special abilities just how it opens up a different world for them. When they’re in the water, they feel great. They feel excited. They feel limitless,” Lenny said. “And knowing that anything’s possible is probably the greatest gift.”
Neil Boyle and his wife Jennifer came for the dedication with their 20-year-old son, Sean, who uses a wheelchair. They heard about LifeTown through word of mouth and only recently visited for the first time. “The programs here, and the facility– it’s insane,” Neil said, as his son waved a greeting.
Observing the different ways to enter the pool, he added, “So much thought went into the construction of the whole building, and also the pool, so that people like my son can participate seamlessly,” he said. “There are a lot of things for Sean to do here and plenty of friends for him to make!”
After the ribbon cutting, guests were invited to tour the brand-new locker rooms before heading into dinner.
Including a pool in the LifeTown facility was of critical importance to its founders at least in part because swimming is one of the four things the Talmud tells us we must teach our children.
“What we’re celebrating tonight is this ability for our children, all of our children, to be able to swim,” said Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, CEO of LifeTown and the Friendship Circle, who added that the process of learning to swim is the perfect metaphor for other aspects of life. “There’s something about the water that teaches the child the skills of being truly independent…They might need assistance or have floaties in the beginning, but then when they learn how to swim independently, it’s at that moment when they really truly gained their independence. They realize that they could accomplish literally anything…when they learn to swim on their own, they’re learning how to swim, how to navigate in the waters of life.”