New pool people are dedicated to community

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  • A “CIRCLE Swim” game helps get kids comfortable in the water. (Carolyn Hidy/Lake County Leader)

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  • A “CIRCLE Swim” game helps get kids comfortable in the water. (Carolyn Hidy/Lake County Leader)

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Fresh faces, fresh community spirit. The pool in Polson is reaching out, looking to provide opportunities for everybody in the valley to be healthier.

Mission Valley Aquatics is the non-profit that manages the state-of-the-art facility dreamed and brought to fruition by the community, for the community. After some management struggles that are long past, there is now an entirely new board, director, and staff, and they are fired up.

“This is my passion,” says Executive Director Kris Sampson, who worked for 15 years as registrar at Polson High School and as a personal trainer. A year and a half ago, Kris was diagnosed with breast cancer, and is doing well now. She says once she was diagnosed, it was clear that “health and fitness are one thing you can control. Taking care of yourself is so important.”

Noting that drowning is the leading cause of death for kids under 14, Sampson, along with a vibrant staff and a board of community go-getters chaired by Ben Montgomery, has dived into the Mission Valley Swims program. They are working to eventually fund swimming and water safety lessons for every 2nd- and 3rd-grade student in every school in Lake County. Linderman School has successfully piloted this project for two years. Enthusiastic support came from Polson Schools (who added swimming to the curriculum), a grant from Greater Polson Community Foundation, and Rotary Club and other community and business donations. As additional grants and funding sources open up, they intend to expand the project throughout the county.

For adults, popular new offerings are being added all the time. In addition to the aqua therapy and aerobics they have been known for, the center now offers scuba and kayak lessons, strength and cardio training, yoga, functional fitness, and Tai Chi. Kickboxing is expected soon. “Kris and the staff deserve a lot of credit,” Montgomery says. They have really helped make some fantastic improvements.”

“We want families to come and feel welcome. We are happy to see you there,” says Montgomery. “It is not a private club.” And there’s so much for them to do.

People can rent the pool and/or party room. Coach Shayna Swanson coaches a high-energy youth swim team. An after-school program offers swimming instruction, play time, and a snack, with school bus transportation. A 7th-grade class even used the pool for carboard/duct tape boat races. “From February until school was out,” Montgomery says, “there was a school using the pool every single day.” This summer, with their own city pool closed for repairs, the Plains swim team has used the Polson facility for practices.

“It’s complicated, managing a multi-million-dollar facility with a board of volunteers,” says Montgomery. Other board members are Rex Weltz, Tana Seeley, Hu Beaver, Ken Cook, Karen Dellwo, Becky Dupuis, Brennin Grainey, Pam Owen, and Connie Plaissey. Fundraising is a top job, as this fantastic facility is also fantastically expensive. Even just the power bill is $10,000 a month.

Yet, at the same time, the team is looking for ways to reduce membership costs and make the facility accessible to all. “We are serious about trying to be what this community really wants and needs.”

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