Miracle Swimming For Adults has come into a miracle of its own.
After more than 30 years of renting pools to teach adults how to overcome their fear of water, the nonprofit organization will open its own facility in Sarasota, Fla. in May.
There will be no lap swimming, water polo, free diving or other leisurely pursuits – just grown men and women facing down their greatest fear in a supportive environment.
“My goal for the pool is to fill it with adult programming all day, every day,” said founder M. Ellen “Melon” Dash.
It will be the only pool in the nation strictly for afraid-in-water adults, which the organization defines as anyone who can’t rest peacefully in the deep end, and 10 feet away from a wall or support, for at least 5 minutes.
Founded in 1983 as the Transpersonal Swimming Institute in Berkley, Calif., the international program has taught more than 5,000 panic-prone swimmers how to be comfortable and confident in the water. Lessons commonly are taught in pools at hotels and health clubs, or wherever its 50 licensed instructors – who are operating in at least 10 states and multiple countries – can negotiate space.
Now the organization owns a pool that it believes will be a destination for those with an abnormal fear of water.
The six-lane, 25-meter pool will enable the Sarasota swim school to accommodate a broader spectrum of people and offer more targeted programming. Separate classes will be provided for those who wish to be with their own gender. And there will be lessons specifically tailored for so-called “sinkers” and expecting parents.
“We’re making the point that parents need to know how to swim before they have children,” Dash said.
Having a parent who is afraid of the water is the reason why 90 percent of her students never learned to swim, she said. Another 60 percent have had a traumatizing experience in the water.
The pool, formerly owned by a Jewish community center, sat dormant for nine years before it was briefly operated by another swim school that couldn’t afford the lease. Dash offered to take it over.
In many ways, the pool is perfect for adult learn-to-swim programming, Dash said. It has a large shallow end and a set of stairs in each corner, which will be used as teaching stations. It also has a kiddie pool for ultra-beginners.
In other ways, it’s not perfect.
Before Dash can open the pool to the public, it needs a makeover. That’s why Miracle Swimming for Adults launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to raise $41,080 to resurface the interior and install new handrails, ladder, anchors, main drain, and skimmer and return grates.
Eventually, Dash would like to install a heater and covers to keep the pool a consistent 94 degrees. The temperature soothes scared swimmers.
The organization has raised nearly $20,000 as of Wednesday. Some of the biggest donations are coming in from those who’ve taken the class. “The graduates are really committed,” Dash said.
The Kickstarter campaign ends Saturday, March 26.
The pool will open even if it doesn't reach its goal. If necessary, Dash said she'll come up with another means of funding.