Hydro helping all abilities

The Sports Ability class at WIRAC. Pictures: CHRIS MUNRO

By Lucy Waldron

Countless studies boast the benefits of swimming and being in the water but until you experience it first hand you don’t quite understand the magnitude of effect the water could have on a person.

The splashes that ripple through their body and bound out in laughter and the soft smiles that get lost in the blue hues, this is what you may experience if you visit the WIRAC swimming pool on a Wednesday morning.

Led by dedicated WIRAC team member Ellie Kelso, the Sports Ability in Hydro program embodies inclusivity and resilience. With 16 years of commitment to the cause, Ellie champions the initiative, fostering an environment where participants exercise their bodies and nourish their spirits.

“Just because [the participants] have a disability it doesn’t mean they are different to anyone else so the water is a good bit of exercise that keeps them fit and strong,” Ellie said.

“It is also good for their mental health, with socialising and creating habits and to get them out of the house.”

The Sports Ability program was created many years ago to fill the lack of accessible exercise for people with disabilities in Warwick. Over the years the number of participants has rapidly grown.

The importance of the program was clear during Covid-19 as lockdown meant the participants missed out on that social interaction and the lessons they learnt each week.

“Catching up on the week before or having a joke, that’s what is important,” Ellie said.

Ellie said the first time she took the hydro sports ability class years ago she loved it so much and has been doing it ever since.

“I just had so much fun and it felt so nice to do internally,” she said.

Every participant is different and has different needs so Ellie must cater to them with the equipment she uses and the exercises she does.

Nev Jeffries was in an accident at 17 years old which left him with a broken neck and in a wheelchair.

Now in his early 60s, Nev continues to get into the pool and stay active as he said it’s important for him to keep his body moving.

“The old story is use it or lose it,” he said.

“I’ve been coming here since the place was built and it has helped my mobility and to keep my weight down.”

With the use of a bit of steel and cloth, Nev is able to do several sit-ups, something that would not be as easy if he were out of the water.

“Nev is as fit as he can be and I am really proud of what he has done,” Ellie said.

The Sports Ability in Hydro currently meet at 11 every Wednesday however they have plans to change the time to 10.30am to allow for more people to join. For a small fee, any adult with a disability can participate.

There is also a Sports Ability on the Courts on Tuesdays at 4.30pm and it is designed for all abilities.

For more information on WIRACs disability programs and services contact them at 07 4661 7955.