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New accessible equipment benefitting HV-GB swimmers

Jeannie Walsh using the Aquatic Pool Lift. She is being assisted by her respite worker, Carrie Brown.
Jeannie Walsh using the Aquatic Pool Lift. She is being assisted by her respite worker, Carrie Brown. - Submitted

Special Olympic athlete thanks local MHA

Thanks to support from her local MHA, a Special Olympics athlete from Happy Valley-Goose Bay can now go swimming with her teammates without having to overcome obstacles of not only getting into the pool but to the pool itself.

Jeannie Walsh has been a Special Olympics athlete for decades.

Thanks to Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper’s support in 2017, Walsh can be lifted into the pool with an aquatic lift.

More recent improvements mean she can also use an entrance on the pool level which makes going for a swim much easier. A changing area has also been put in place near the pool deck.

Walsh said when she saw the renovations, “She couldn’t believe it.”

“This is all pretty good. The changing room is pretty good, too,” she said when contacted by phone recently about the improvements to the pool at the Labrador Training Centre.

Jeannie Walsh in the new change area on the pool deck.
Jeannie Walsh in the new change area on the pool deck.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay Special Olympics club coordinator, Susan Lamond said Walsh is one of the Howling Huskies 21 athletes.

While every effort was made in the past to ensure Walsh got to swim with her teammates, Lamond said, the stairs was definitely a challenge as Walsh relies on a wheelchair for mobility.

“You come into the main door. You have to go down a set of stairs. You go into the ladies change room. You go up another set of stairs and then you’re on the pool deck. It was quite a job getting the wheelchair up and down,” Lamond recalled during a phone interview on March 26.

Once on the pool deck, she said, the difficulty continued in trying to get Walsh into the pool.

“Jeannie has limited mobility. We would physically pick her up out of her chair and get her into the pool. We did that for about a year,” Lamond recalled.

That changed last spring after Lamond had another conversation with Trimper.

Lamond told her MHA about the club’s frustration with the pool and with not having the supports Walsh needed.

The club was successful in obtaining a grant from the provincial government to buy and install an aquatic pool lift. The Trapper’s Running Club also contributed to the lift, Lamond said.

“The lift handled getting Jeannie into the pool and getting her out but that was only half our battle,” Lamond recalled.

The next step was to somehow eliminate the two sets of stairs that needed to be conquered before Walsh could get to the pool.

Lamond again talked to Trimper about the building’s inaccessibility. Trimper is a big supporter of Special Olympics, she said. He’s involved in everything from giving out medals to racing with the athletes, Lamond added.

“We went up and we looked at it. There’s an emergency exit on the pool deck. I knew (Jeannie) could come in through that door if we had a ramp on it.”

Adding a changing area near the deck would also eliminate a set of stairs, Lamond said.

There is now a wheelchair accessible entrance to the pool and a change room near the pool’s deck.

“Perry was the driving force behind all this,” Lamond said.

Lamond said the lift and other improvements will benefit not only Walsh but anyone else in the community with mobility issues.

“We went up last Friday and Jeannie was over the moon because the ramp is there, the change area is there. The lift is there. It was just great,” Lamond said.

danette@nl.rogers.com

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