New aquatic center popular with disabled clients

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KELLY HUMPHREY @KellyHnwfdn

FORT WALTON BEACH — Since its grand opening in May, the new aquatic center at the ARC of the Emerald Coast on Holmes Boulevard has proven to be a popular gathering spot for the agency’s clients with developmental and other disabilities.

The 7,000-square-foot facility, which features a 1,400-square-foot zero-entry pool, is designed especially for people with disabilities. In addition to a ramp that allows people in wheelchairs to enter the pool, the facility has a lift in which physically disabled people can be lowered into the water.

“The pool provides great therapy for our clients,” said John Roper, the organization’s chief executive officer. “They really enjoy swimming, and since the deepest part of the pool is only 4 feet, it’s ideal for people with disabilities.”

Around five clients and a few employees were using the facility on Saturday when U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz stopped by for a tour. A young man named Johnny held on to a safety rail as he made his way into the pool via the ramp.

“This pool is nice,” he said while watching another client slowly make her way across the water while holding a kick board. “It’s fun.”

The facility was made possible through a $125,000 grant from Impact 100. The building is also home to a state-of-the-art kitchen and nutrition center sponsored by the Destin Charity Wine Auction, and ARC’s early intervention program.

Gaetz said he was impressed with the facility, and the potential it provides for physical therapy and other programs.

“The people at the ARC are really doing great things,” he said. “I’m hoping this aquatic center will allow them to help even more people.”

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