Miami Springs Parks & Recreation Department given grant to help disabled swim

    The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation recently awarded a $5,750 quality-of-life grant to the Miami Springs Parks and Recreation Department, which will allow those with paralysis and other impairments to enjoy the city’s pool.

    “Four years ago, we instituted groundbreaking therapeutic aquatics and learn-to-swim programs at no charge for both children and adults in this region with spinal-cord injuries, degenerative diseases, autism and many other disabilities,” said Omar Luna, the city’s recreation director, who announced the award.

    The city plans to use grant funds to add ladders, rails, swim bars, platforms and more so that disabled visitors to the pool can “enjoy the water.”

    “This is very good news,” said Alex Varela, a local electrician, who frequents the pool with his daughter. “We are trying to get a little time in the pool for kids with special needs to have swim classes.”

    Before learning about the grant, Varela said he recently inquired at the pool as to whether any special-needs programs were available.

    “This program has always been a cornerstone of one of our core beliefs — the power of we,” said Peter Wilderotter, the foundation’s president. “We are better able to help our community members live more independently.”

    The grant will provide learn-to-swim gear and programs to “non-swimmers” of all ages who are facing physical, emotional or mobility challenges. There is no charge for the service, and you do not have to be a city resident to participate.

    One local grandmother who advocates for autism research thinks the program will help her grandson who is living with autism.

    “It's a wonderful feeling when the members of the autism community actually are given funds to enable them to enjoy a pastime that we all take for granted,” said Rosie Buckner, who last year pushed the city to install signs warning drivers that they have entered an “autistic child area.” “Where do I sign my grandson up?”

    Buckner hopes the city continues the program even after the grant funds are used.

    But at a recent council meeting, city leaders discussed a memo that revealed deteriorating conditions at the pool that include 194 “voids,” or sections where the concrete pool’s shell is exposed; 42 steel rust “extrusions,” where steel is poking through the concrete; and six lights with “major” water damage to the sockets.  The city is now mulling over three repair options that range in cost from $250,000 to $4 million.

    Each of the options might require temporarily closing the pool while repairs are made.

    A spokesperson for the Reeves Foundation expressed dismay upon hearing about the pool’s condition

    “I want to make sure you understand the latest information and where this is headed,” said City Manager Ron Gorland.  “We’re not asking for anything at this time, just informing you.”

    On Feb. 27, the pool was inspected by the county health department and received a “satisfactory” rating.  The pool remains open and received and has even added a Sunday schedule to serve residents.

    The city hopes to implement its learn-to-swim adaptive program to help disabled swimmers enhance their emotional and physical health, as well as increase independence.

    Quality-of-life grants, started by the late Dana Reeve, are awarded to programs or projects that improve the daily lives of people with paralysis, although the funds aren’t limited to that condition.

    A total of 76 grants have been awarded nationwide. Since 1999, the program has awarded 2,131 grants totaling over $16 million.

    “I hope the city of Miami Springs can rally to come up with the funds to repair what is likely a crucial component of the community,” said Donna Valente, a spokesperson for the Reeves Foundation.

    For information about the city’s learn-to-swim adaptive program, call 305-805-5075.