Future of SMILE program tied to the fate of YMCA

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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AMHERST - The closure of the pool at the Cumberland YMCA could have a devastating effect on those who need it most.

The executive director of the Cumberland Early Intervention Program said the scheduled March closure of the pool would not hurt the Cumberland SMILE program this year, but a prolonged closure would threaten its existence.

"It would be a sad day for our program and its participants if that were allowed to happen," Lisa Gower said.

The Cumberland SMILE program provides a recreational experience and developmental support to children with special needs while providing a respite opportunity for parents and caregivers and giving leadership experience to program volunteers.

SMILE is a Saturday morning program that pairs students from Mount Allison University with children ages three to 21.

Gower said the students are bused from Mount Allison every Saturday morning during the fall and winter months for the program that sees children participate on a one-on-one basis for an hour in the YMCA gymnasium followed by an hour in the pool.

Losing the pool, she said, would definitely hurt, but if the YMCA were to close it would effectively end a 12-year-old program.

"It would be really unfortunate for the 50 children and their families that have come to depend on SMILE because in most cases it's the only recreational program their children can participate in," Gower said.

Early Intervention is just one of several community groups that use the YMCA pool regularly. Along with the Cumberland Spartans Swim Club, the Sunset Adult Residential Centre in Pugwash often transports its clients for recreational time in the pool.

Earlier this week, the YMCA's board of directors announced it is closing the pool on Monday, March 16, because it feels it can no longer afford to maintain it.

The board made a presentation to the town and the Municipality of Cumberland in January asking for funding for the pool.

Councillors from both municipal units met behind closed doors at the E.D. Fullerton Municipal Building on Wednesday and it's believed they will be seeking a meeting with YMCA officials and those from Health Promotion and Protection in the coming week or so.

The YMCA intends to discuss the pool situation during an public meeting on Tuesday, March 3, at the downtown facility.

dcole@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: YMCA, Mount Allison University, Cumberland Spartans Swim Club Sunset Adult Residential Centre E.D. Fullerton Municipal Building

Geographic location: AMHERST, Pugwash

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