Randolph YMCA

In 2002, when Kathy Fisher interviewed for the position of aquatics director at the Randolph YMCA, she had longevity and health on the mind.

Fisher had recently recovered from a back injury using aquatic therapy and was keenly aware of the impact such programming could have on the New Jersey-based facility. When the CEO expressed interest in building a second pool, Fisher offered a solution that would serve the community, extend beyond trend, and create a cycle of wellness. Needless to say, she landed the role.

“While most facilities at that time were installing splash pads, I was thinking about long-term sustainability and preparing for the future,” she explains. “Those kinds of features are great, but we tried to think in advance and stay ahead of the curve and what was coming down the pike in aquatic rehab.”

Strategic growth

After joining the team, Fisher began an intense effort to expand aquatic fitness programming, improve the facility’s overall features, and create access for the growing rehab population. She and her team have raised the bar on targeted programming, thanks to a number of strategies — partnerships with local medical facilities and organizations, a focused facility design, a staff of employees chosen for their passion and personality, and ongoing education through presentations and handouts.

Initially aimed at joint replacement patients, the plan quickly evolved, especially after the construction of a 3½-to-5-foot-deep warm water pool was completed in 2009. A 2013 grant was used to upgrade the ADA front entrance to include a better ramp and automatic doors for all the new patrons.

Today the Randolph Y offers targeted programming in more than 30 classes each week for the treatment of such varied chronic illness as Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, arthritis, autism, cerebral palsy and stroke recovery, among others.

“Now there isn’t anything we turn away,” Fisher says. “There’s always a jam up of wheelchairs on the pool deck.”

Today, some of the most popular programs include the grant-funded Water Wellness cancer recovery program designed for women who have undergone surgery or treatment 6- to 24 months before. The MS Fit program, which takes place in the main pool, is also in high demand, as is the selection of Arthritis Foundation-approved aquatics classes.

In 2016, Fisher helped introduce an aquatic boxing program specifically for those fighting Parkinson's. Called “UH2O Fight Back,” it has grown from 2 to more than 80 participants.

Fischer and her team have hatched more plans for progress. Soon, the facility will include an on-site hospital physical therapy satellite location, operating an exclusive space within the building. The facility also is wrapping up its first-ever capital campaign to raise funds for a fifth locker room, with plans to begin construction in 2019. An ADA-accessible locker room will provide direct access to the warm water and main pool. Features will include private wet- and dry-area changing rooms, complete with ADA-compliant showers, toilets and changing tables.

“This addition would remove any remaining obstacles that exist for the members of our community who have trouble with access,” Fisher says.