Katie's pool is another step closer to reality

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Construction of the Kathryn M. York Adapted Aquatics Center at the Wilson Family Y officially began on Thursday with Katie's mother, Melrose, officially scooping up the first chunk of dirt where "Katie's Pool" will soon be situated.

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Katie York's mother, Melrose York, plans to take some of the first dirt from the construction of the aquatics center to Katie's grave. The center  plans to be ready to open by June 2, 2010.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Katie York's mother, Melrose York, plans to take some of the first dirt from the construction of the aquatics center to Katie's grave. The center plans to be ready to open by June 2, 2010.

"Wooooo!" Melrose York hollered from the cab of a backhoe as she kicked off the final steps toward the fulfillment of a dream that her late daughter helped inspire.

The aquatics center is named in recognition of Katie York, a Family Y adapted aquatics instructor who died in May 2008 at the age of 20 after overcoming the effects of the viral encephalitis she suffered as a junior at Augusta Christian Schools. Her death immediately inspired a movement to raise money to build a pool to serve the specialized needs of children and adults. The facility had first been proposed by Claudia Collins, the adapted aquatics program director who worked with York.

"This was Claudia's dream for years and young staff like Katie York grabbed that dream as their own," said Danny McConnell, the president of the Family Y.

The Family Y completed the bid process for contractors two weeks ago, with R.D. Brown hired as general contractor and Studio 3 Design Group as architects. Augusta Aquatics, Inc. will build the 34-by-60-foot saline pool that will be maintained at 88-90 degrees.

At the ceremonial ground-breaking four months ago, the sunbaked dirt was so hard that the gold-painted shovels could barely scratch the surface. Now with the contractors set to begin construction, there was heavy machinery in place to really break some ground.

Melrose York put on a red hard hat and climbed into the cab of a backhoe to get the project officially started.

"How do you turn it on?" she asked as her husband, Ron, held their 2-year-old granddaughter Kylie at a safe distance.

With a few quick instructions, she got it moving and scooped up a healthy chunk and skillfully relocated it to a pile.

"This is the dirt I'm going to keep," she said.

Paul York, Katie's brother, carried off a bucket full of the soil that Melrose York will distribute to friends, her garden and to her daughter's gravesite.

"Some of it will go to Katie," she said.

Money has continued trickling in since June when the Family Y committed to financing the completion of the $1.3 million project. Since fundraising began in June 2008, more than $1.1 million has been raised. McConnell said the contractors are confident that, barring any unforeseen delays, the facility will be completed before the scheduled opening date of June 2 -- Katie York's birthday.

"On June 2, 2010, we will cut the ribbon," McConnell said.

Until then, the Yorks can watch the progress of the construction on a Webcam that was installed on the roof of the existing Y.

The Family Y has added 88 parking spaces to accommodate the added traffic that the facility will bring in.

Approximately 270 people a month participate in the current adapted aquatics program in the main pool, and the new facility will be able to serve people with medical conditions triggered by chlorine or the cooler conditions of the current pool.

The adapted aquatics center will also feature a 42-foot ramp into the shallow end of the pool, handicap accessible changing rooms with a lift system that will enable wheelchair-bound individuals to be more easily assisted, therapy rooms and office space.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.


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