Jan Shea. Photo Credit: Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County

When Jan Shea saw the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County’s new pool chair lift, it was love at first sight.

After being sidelined by significant health issues, including the partial amputation of her left leg, she wanted to get back into swimming but dreaded entering the pool via the archaic chair lift that she remembered seeing at the Club. “I had been putting off coming back, but when I came through the pool area to renew my membership, I saw the new chairlift,” Jan recounted. “It was beautiful and amazing. I’m now able to get in the pool, and I’m going to stay in the pool.” 

Swimming has always played a prominent role in Jan’s life: as a youth who learned to swim in a community pool, she went on to lifeguarding in high school and becoming a swim official and judge when two of her four children swam competitively. 

Prior to experiencing health issues, Jan swam five days per week at the Club. The new chairlift will allow her to work up to her previous swim routine and aid in her recovery. “If I’m walking, my back gives out, and I need to stop,” she said. “The saving grace of swimming is that I can work all of my muscles without that happening.” 

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The chair lift provides access to people of all ages who cannot enter and exit the pool due to mobility issues, and its portability offers users the choice of entering the pool in either the deep end or shallow end.  Its addition completes access to the pool facility for wheelchair-bound individuals, as there is a ramp entrance (recently upgraded thanks to funding from the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust) that leads directly into the pool area from the Club’s parking lot on Mill Street. Also, the men’s and women’s locker rooms off the pool deck feature wheelchair-friendly toilets, sinks and showers. “It’s nice to shower here because of the wheelchair-accessible stall,” said Jan.

“The Club’s pool is the only one in Newport that is opened to the public, so the addition of this chair lift will increase our impact and is in line with our mission of helping those who need us most,” stated Club Executive Director Joe Pratt. “We are grateful to the Newport County Fund for funding this acquisition, and we’re excited to see Jan and others enjoy time in the water.”

The pool is a standard 25-yard, five-lane, salt water pool and consistently remains heated at a temperature of 82 degrees or above.  For all, including those with limited mobility, swimming provides many health benefits: buoyancy in water reduces the adverse effects of gravity, thus making movement easier and less painful, and at the same time, movement increases muscle strength because water is more resistant than air.  Also, having this social outlet helps to diminish the social isolation that many with mobility issues face as a result of limited access to activities.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County was founded to provide a safe place for youth where they could find help with challenges and encouragement to reach their goals. For more than sixty years, we have grown and evolved while staying true to our mission of “inspiring and enabling all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.”  As the leading youth guidance agency in our community, the Club continues to provide a positive, safe and fun environment for children to learn and grow and plays a vital role in strengthening and supporting the community we serve.  Each Club activity falls into at least one of our three core areas – Academic Success, Healthy Lifestyles, and Character & Leadership Development – utilizing evidence-informed and evidence-based programs that put young people on the path to success.  

For more information, contact the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County, 401-847-6927, or visit our website at www.bgcnewport.org.

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