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A 10-year milestone in Cascade Community Pool lap-a-thon

Five years ago, Juliana Kelsall became one of my first column subjects when I shared how her international lifestyle with Wycliffe Bible Translators had been forcibly altered. Her restructured administrative role kept her close to home and put an end to further world travel after a life-rattling MS diagnosis.

I needed a visit with Jules and her tortoiseshell kitty, Zowie. Today, Zowie hopped on my lap, welcoming me like the old friends we are. I was pleased she hadn’t forsaken me after so long an absence. The three of us sat in their new digs talking swimming and how much the nonprofit Cascade Community Pool means. Juliana’s goal from the beginning of her association with them had been to complete 10 years of swimming laps for their annual fundraiser as long as she remained physically able.

Jules received her MS diagnosis the day before walking into CCP for a swim. Joy Reich, Cascade’s full-time volunteer executive director since 1999, asked her how she was doing. When Jules told her the news, Joy was ready with a hug and words of encouragement — something Jules has never forgotten.

Swimming remained Juliana’s primary exercise throughout the advancing challenges, and she remained steadfast in raising money for the people and the pool that helped sustain her and countless members of the community.

“The biggest project that we did was help out with the new roof,” Jules said. “That was 2014. This year it’s fixing something called purlins (roof supports). It will go to fixing the rust problems. It’s always something.”

Until 2018, Juliana was able to enlist sponsors and swim laps, even when MS limited her to using arms only. Through the years she’s raised more than $18,000 to help with improvements and maintenance issues — everything from a pool vacuum to a new roof, one lap at a time. Last year she realized that getting in the water was no longer an option, as she had become wheelchair bound. Not to be deterred, she asked whether she could do laps in her wheelchair along the decking. They told her sure, if she could get sponsorship. She did, and completed 132 wheeled laps, or about three miles in the allotted hour, making figure eights at each turnaround in top gear.

This year’s lap-a-thon was to be Juliana’s 10th. Her chances of achieving the goal appeared dismal, then her friend Debbie Conley came alongside.

“Debbie approached me at church one day and said, ‘I’ve gotten back to the pool since last fall, and I’d really like to swim this year in your honor, if that’s OK with you.’” Debbie had no knowledge of Juliana’s 10-year goal. She just knew how much the fundraiser meant to Jules and wanted to help out. So Debbie swam 53 laps, or about a mile and a quarter, in Juliana’s name, and like a long-distance relay team, they made the goal.

The Cascade Community Pool was built in 1963 as an outdoor summertime pool only. Now they offer much in true community spirit. Folks who can’t afford memberships can take advantage of a scholarship program. Each year they offer basic water safety courses to all third-graders in the district and beyond. During this time they can identify which kids would benefit from lessons and offer help if it’s beyond the family’s means.

The motto for CCP is, “Healthy families — vibrant community.”

Juliana didn’t mention there’s a lap-a-thon award potluck luncheon at Cascade Pool at 12:15 p.m. April 10, but I suspect she’s being modest. Her dedication will be recognized. In fact, Juliana wins the award every year for bringing in the most money.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer in Eagle Point. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com and on her Facebook page.