Long Beach’s Pools of Hope delivers smiles and relief

Pat Dixon can vividly recall her first introduction to Long Beach’s California Aquatic Therapy and Wellness Center.

The organization was hosting an event to showcase their various programs, and Dixon anticipated she would simply observe different individuals sharing their swim skills. But when she arrived, her role was to actually assist with placing medals on students and families in the pool after they shared touching stories of how the center had changed their lives.

She heard tales from disabled students taking first steps in the pool, and listened as elderly patients smiled and shared how the pool work eased aching joints. The experience moved Dixon, and demonstrated the power of the pool. Shortly after, she was invited to take the role of executive director for the organization, and has been watching the facility grow and flourish for the past 18 years.

“It really is a place of miracles,” said Dixon. “I get to see so many people experience the pool and witness how our programs improve their lives and make them smile.”

The mission of the California Aquatic Therapy and Wellness Center is to promote whole life wellness for the community in an accessible, warm-water aquatic facility. The pool is heated to a comfortable temperature of 91 to 94 degrees year-round, creating an ideal environment for therapy sessions and lessons for many types of groups, including those with physical and intellectual disabilities, the elderly, local school children, and especially those who have mobility challenges.

In 1963, the organization was incorporated and purchased an outdoor pool facility located at 6801 Long Beach Boulevard, in Long Beach. In 1977, a major renovation was completed to enclose the facility allowing for year-round usage. The nonprofit corporation later became the California Pools for the Handicapped, and in 1996, the California Pools of Hope, Inc.

“We are one of five longest-running nonprofits within the Long Beach community, and we are privileged to do this type of work,” said Dixon. “What really makes us unique is the heated pool, the varying programs we offer at affordable rates, and also the accessibility factor with our hydraulic lifts to assist those in wheelchairs.”

Pools for Hope works closely with local doctors and hospitals, as well as the surrounding regional centers, and even the local school district to develop and offer a wide array of rehabilitation programs. Nearly 50 percent of the annual 1,500 individuals it serves benefit from discounted memberships.

“We consider the pool a great melting pot,” said Dixon. “It’s not always easy to get into bathing suit, but we just tell people to come and try it. We serve people throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties and empower them to live better lives.”

While she notes the building is not new and modern, it is benefiting many, which fuels Dixon to secure funding for ongoing improvements. Her near-term goal includes trying to secure more parking, especially for those patients with disabilities to ease their transition from car to pool.

To learn more about Pools of Hope, and how to support, visit http://www.caaquatictherapy.com or call 310-293-7335.