Katie's Pool opens at Family Y

It was like the birth of a child.

Instead of in nine months, Claudia Collins' baby -- the Kathryn M. York Adapted Aquatics Center -- came to life in two years.

The center's namesake was largely the catalyst for the community's coming together to create a pool for people with disabilities.

Collins, adapted aquatics director at the Wilson Family YMCA, and others celebrated the opening Wednesday of the aquatics center, nicknamed Katie's Pool, and celebrated Katie, who would have turned 23 on the pool's opening day.

Katie's Pool features a state-of-the-art, 34-by-60-foot swimming pool, with a 42-foot ramp and a lift system for individuals who use wheelchairs.

The center will offer therapeutic sessions to those with special needs, Collins said. Although the adapted aquatics program began in 2006, Katie inspired the fundraising campaign.

The Family Y adapted aquatics instructor died in May 2008 due to complications from viral encephalitis. She, like Collins, foresaw a time when their clients would have their own facility.

"The element she gave to the program was special, because she had a disability herself," Collins said. "She could connect with the kids in another way."

Katie influenced her clients and those who knew her long before she was diagnosed with the seizure disorder in 2005, said her mother, Melrose York.

As she clipped the hot pink ribbon to open Katie's Pool, York said she was reminded of her daughter and the commitment of the friends and family that helped raise more than $1 million in less than two years.

"We were so destroyed by this when we lost Katie," she said. "Our friends and family took on this huge commitment. She wanted this type of program to better the life of people she worked with."

Greenbrier High School students, Augusta Christian -- Katie's alma mater -- and others helped raised money for the project. The Family Y helped finance the remainder.

The fruition of the project is impressive considering the economic times, Mayor Deke Copenhaver said before the grand opening.

"It's amazing that this money could be raised," he said.

Jimmy Coxwell will likely take his first dip in the pool within the next week. The Thomson, Ga., stroke survivor started work with adapted aquatics staff about a year ago, and his wife, Anne, said she has seen its effect.

He cannot speak or walk, but he can now balance better and can get out of the pool on his own. Having the center will only increase his chances of improving his motor skills.

"I believe one day he'll walk out of this center," Coxwell said. "We praise God for bringing that young lady (Katie) across our paths."

Community can share in Katie's legacy
The most practical monument ever
Katie's pool is another step closer to reality
Sharing Katie's commitment
Dream will become reality
Katie's gift
Kathryn M. York Adapted Aquatics Center

The adapted aquatics center will be open to the public from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, with physical and occupational therapists on staff Saturdays. For more information, contact Claudia Collins at (706) 922-9664.