Groundbreaking today for facility that honors Family Y volunteer

Just more than a year after Katie York’s death and on what would have been her 22nd birthday, the Wilson Family Y held a ceremonial groundbreaking today to begin building an adapted aquatics center in Miss York’s name.


Fundraising efforts generated $1.1 million in donations, enough to trigger the board to authorize financing the remainder of the $1.5 million project through the organization’s reserve funds.

“This effort was God’s will at work,” said Danny McConnell, the president of the Family Y on Wheeler Road. “It’s remarkable to see this love for Katie and her family transform into this.”

Mr. McConnell said construction will begin as soon the design work and bidding is complete and hopes the facility will be ready to open next spring.

“Eleven months from now is a very realistic ribbon-cutting date,” he said.

Miss York was an accomplished member of the swim team at Augusta Christian Schools before coming down with viral encephalitis during her junior year. While seizures became a regular part of her life, she recovered enough to volunteer and then join the staff of Claudia Collins’ adapted aquatics therapy programs at the Family Y.

Before her death in May 2008, she proved to be an inspiring teacher to the young children suffering from disabilities such as autism who where otherwise reluctant to participate in the aquatic therapy.

Her inspiration resulted in an outpouring of community support to build the specialized facility after her death. The Kathryn M. York Aquatics Center will house a handicapped accessible saltwater pool maintained at 88 to 91 degrees and suitable to serve a wider range of people who can't tolerate the chlorine environment of the current pool.

“We are a giving community,” said Mayor Deke Copenhaver, a former board member at the Family Y. “It’s amazing during the midst of this economy that people can come together for this.”

Said Paul York, Katie’s older brother: “To see it happen all in this year is a phenomenal feeling and to see so many people loved her. I’m glad to see that this program that meant so much to her gets to go forward. It’s such a worthy thing.”

At today’s ceremony on the site of the future facility, the first Katie’s Courage Award was presented to her parents, Melrose and Ron York.

“It’s an amazing wave of love,” Melrose York said. “I am without speech, and that’s rare for me.”

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or



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