The Ottawa Swim Club would like to formally endorse the YMCA project.

It is a facility that would not only benefit the Ottawa Otters, but also would provide huge opportunities for literally thousands of people in Ottawa and the Franklin County area. The indoor pool alone would offer people from a wide variety of populations a critical service that has been lacking in our area. It also would open opportunities for many more people and organizations. People of all ages would be able to finally enjoy the incredible benefits of aquatic exercise.

As the coach of the Ottawa Swim Club for the past 22 years, I have seen many highs and lows for our team. The team began practicing at Ottawa University’s indoor pool in the mid-1970s. The team thrived, despite training in a pool not quite regulation size. Swimmers qualified for many regional and national meets during this time. OU closed the pool in early 1998.

For the next five years, the team made do in local residential pools — much too small to accommodate team needs. Team membership and performance waned.

Swim-4-Life opened in 2003 and suddenly the Otters were back in full strength. Team membership soared to more than 60 swimmers, and the results were incredible. The team set more team and individual records in two years than it had the previous 10 years combined. Then the facility closed. Ottawa Swim Club went into dry-dock for the next several winter seasons. However, membership stayed steady during the summer months. Swim-4-Life reopened. Again, membership skyrocketed and the swimmers’ performances was outstanding. Then the pool closed and the team was dry again.

The YMCA, with its proposed, six-lane, full-sized competitive swimming pool, would allow the local team to expand again and hopefully keep local swimmers swimming in Ottawa, for Ottawa. After Swim-4-Life closed, several Ottawa swimmers went to Lawrence teams to continue competing. These swimmers and their families must spend countless hours traveling to and from Lawrence, spending money there, not in Ottawa. Vehicle wear, meals on the road, time away from family, and increased club dues are just a few hardships they endure. Most, including several former Otters who made the move to Lawrence the first time Swim-4-Life closed, are no longer swimming because of the factors previously mentioned. The YMCA would hopefully keep these families, along with their money, swimming in Ottawa.

The facility itself also has the potential to bring people to Ottawa. Having swim meets in the city would bring hundreds to the area — all with spending money, providing a nice boost to the local economy.

Gabby Bowers, 15, a member of the Ottawa Swim Club, said, “When summer season ends, the hardest part is knowing my body will ache and my happy mentality will fade. Swimming allows me to excel both mentally and physically. Swimming is a lifestyle for me. I was not built for land sports; I was born for the water!”

Bowers also pointed out she appreciates all the benefits a pool would do for the community and encourages the community to pull together to make this dream a reality.

Oliver Tillinghast, 12, an Ottawa swimmer currently swimming in Lawrence, said, “I really want to swim with the Otters! Luckily, I am able to train with a Lawrence team, something only a few Ottawa swimmers are fortunate enough to do. The YMCA pool would bring me back year round, not only summers.”

The swimming pool also will allow those who require water therapy and rehabilitation to do it in Ottawa. Those people now must travel out of the area for such services, again taking their money with them. Unfortunately, many cannot or will not get out of town for such services, so they go without. So many people can benefit from aquatic therapy and exercise. The list of physical and mental ailments that can successfully be treated with water therapy is extensive with more and more possibilities being discovered.

Such ailments include: arthritis, cerebral palsy, cardiac rehabilitation, fibromyalgia, Down’s syndrome, eating disorders, obesity, scoliosis, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, surgical rehabilitation, pregnancy, traumatic brain injury, orthopedic injuries, autism, stroke recovery and repetitive stress disorders.

America’s children have huge health concerns. Because of an increase in such non-physical activities as video games and computers, there has been a huge increase in obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other physical issues related to a sedimentary lifestyle. Swimming provides a great alternative for those needing physical exercise. Water-based exercise provides opportunities for strength and conditioning without all the sweating and muscle soreness. The YMCA will be able to address these issues head on, not only through the swimming pool, but also with many additional programs it will offer that now are unavailable in Ottawa.

Citizens of Ottawa, it is time to open your hearts and wallets to support the YMCA project.

Will it be expensive? Absolutely.

Will it be worth the investment? Definitely.

Will this building benefit you directly or someone you know for years to come? You bet.

The YMCA would open up a whole new world to an incredible amount of people. It would allow those unable or unwilling to travel to get important rehabilitative services the chance to get them locally. It would allow the youth of Ottawa to get involved with different types of physical activities, promote healthful living and encourage a sense of responsibility. It would allow kids a place to grow and flourish and develop the skills and ideals that lead to positive behavior, better health and educational achievement, regardless of age, income or background.

It would allow the Ottawa Swim Club a place to grow and expand and offer more youth positive aquatic experiences. The Otters will rise!

The YMCA would allow Ottawa to grow and be noticed in a positive light and show people from other areas we are a progressive city that cares about its residents.

If you ever were going to support anything, support this project.

The lives of so many people can be positively influenced. Many donors are needed, both public and private. Donations of all amounts are needed. Many in our area have the financial means to make large contributions; I encourage those people to do so. If you are able to make a large donation, contact Ed York at Arvest Bank. He will help you help Ottawa.

I urge you to give back to your community.

— Jeff Brewer, coach, Ottawa Swim Club, Ottawa