Our First Trip to the Program
Children and seniors enjoying each other in the pool.
Our second encounter with the program a few weeks later on January 30, 2018, was a visit to the North Centennial Pool at North Centennial Recreation and Leisure Facility (renamed to Sergeant Tommy Prince Place). That Tuesday was another bitterly cold day, but it was also snowy and windy. Barry and I had planned to join Cathy Auld to see for ourselves what happens in the North Centennial Seniors Association’s Grandma and Grandpa Swim Program. We questioned whether the pre-schoolers and seniors could safely venture out on such a blustery day. I called Laura Isbister to check if the program would run that morning. “Oh yes,” she said. “As long as the buses are running, the children will come.” “But what about the seniors?” I thought. We decided that if they could go, so could we.
Eleanor and Barry visit with the swim program volunteers along with Cathy Auld (far right).
We arrived at the pool in time to observe the first group of children laughing and splashing with their ‘grandmas’ and ‘grandpas’ in the pool. It was clear that the children had safely arrived and so had most of the ‘grandparents’! The second group of children waited on the pool deck until it was their turn to leap into the arms of their waiting partners. We watched as the children and ‘grandparents’ played happily together in the water.
We stayed for lunch and met some of the volunteers and heard some of their stories. We experienced the camaraderie and the sense of community in the group. We felt the enthusiasm and the energy in the room. We saw that day that it takes special people to volunteer in the Grandma and Grandpa Swim Program.
About the Grandma and Grandpa Swim Program
The NCSA has been offering the Grandma and Grandpa Swim Program for over 35 years. It was started in 1983 by a City of Winnipeg employee, Bernice Feledechuk, who eventually became president of the NCSA. Every Tuesday morning children from inner city daycares are bussed to the North Centennial Pool where they have fun time in the water with caring seniors. The City of Winnipeg provides the pool and lifeguards. Seniors from around the city volunteer their time. The Moffat Family and the Gray Family Funds fund the buses, and the Circle of Life Endowment Fund funds social events like the annual Christmas party, including presents, and spring carnival.
This remarkable program has won awards such as Premier’s Volunteer Service Award (2001), Mayor’s Volunteer Service Award (2002), Vanier Institute Certificate of Appreciation (2015), and a Manitoba Council on Aging Recognition Award (2017).
Swim program in action.
The Grandma and Grandpa Swim program meets some of the physical, social, and emotional needs at both ends of life’s spectrum. It would not be possible without the vision, work, and dedication of the volunteers of this award winning program. We salute the North Centennial Seniors Association president Bernice Feledechuk, the swim program co-ordinator, Barbara Morris, and all the many volunteers. We especially thank Laura Isbister who has been our communication channel with the program.