This is part of a weekly series that highlights a grant provided by the Foundation.
Two summers ago, the kiddie pool at Robert Kepler Memorial Pool, in Bellefonte, was 24 to 30 feet in diameter and 1.5 feet deep, like it’s always been. But inside that kiddie pool, which was closed to the public, sat only a sad, lonely sprinkler head attached to a hose.
According to Howard Long, vice president/chief operations officer of the YMCA of Centre County, the passing of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act made it impossible to operate the existing kiddie pool without making extremely expensive upgrades.
There was a significant decline in the number of families with young children who visited Kepler Pool that summer.
“Because of not being able to offer anything for the younger children, coming to the pool wasn’t that much of a draw for families,” Long said.
So the YMCA, which does not own the pool, but has been managing its day-to-day operations since 2001, got creative, creating a project that addressed the need for providing safe and age-appropriate swimming activities for children and families at Robert Kepler Memorial Pool.
A grant from the Centre County Community Foundation enabled the YMCA to transform the drained kiddie pool into a children’s play area, filled with inflatable objects, sprinklers and slides.
“If we didn’t create it, pre-schoolers and toddlers would not have had a place to go into water,” Long said. “They could have gone into the main pool, but it would have meant that parents would have had to go into the pool with them.”
The YMCA also painted the majority of the pool facilities, planted flowers, added more social activities, made activities like foosball and ping pong available and added two slides to the main pool, making the facility more welcoming not just to the little ones, but also to school-age children, teens and adults.
The summer before the changes were made, the pool served 9,172 residents. In 2010, it served more than 10,500 residents. Many residents told Long the pool was looking the best it had looked in a very long time.
“Because of the small changes that we made, we were able to offer more to the community. A lot of creative things were done that had not been done in years past. There was more fun for the kids,” Long said.
The upgrades are not a permanent solution though. The cost to return the kiddie pool to its former glory and to make upgrades to the main pool are estimated at $1.5 million, so Long hopes that in the long run, local governmental bodies will form a pool or park and recreation authority and work hard at raising the necessary funds that the pool needs.
Are you that white knight? To donate to the YMCA of Centre County, or for more information about the organization and its programs, call 814-237-7717 or check out their website.