Published: 17:23, 30 September 2021
| Updated: 14:12, 08 October 2021
A £1m hydrotherapy pool has opened at a school for students with special needs, after three years of fundraising.
The new "state of the art" pool at Five Acre Wood, in Boughton Lane, Maidstone will make a "massive difference" to pupils and will also be available for the public to use.
Watch: A new hydrotherapy at Five Acre Wood school, which the public can also use, has opened
Five Acre Wood school looks after about 750 students with severe and complex learning difficulties, aged from 3-19.
Friends of Five Acre Wood School, a charity dedicated to raising funds on its behalf, is the Kent Messenger’s charity of the year for 2021, and was also our charity of the year in 2020.
The Cullum Family Trust Hydrotherapy Pool- named after the facility's major donor- was officially opened today by the Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Lady Colgrain.
Upon arrival, she was presented with flowers by student Finley Parrin, who turned seven today.
Speaking ahead of the official opening to donors, Maidstone mayor Cllr Fay Gooch, and those involved in constructing the pool, principal Peggy Murphy said: "Hydrotherapy is an absolutely vital therapy for many of our students with the highest physical needs.
"Hydrotherapy has to take place in a purpose built pool.The water needs to be a steady 35 degrees, the air temperature must remain comfortable, and you can't just find some deep water somewhere and 'do hydrotherapy'".
"The benefits of hydrotherapy are endless for anyone who needs it. A user who is totally dependent on others for mobility out of water can discover a sense of freedom and independent movement in a hydrotherapy pool.
"Muscles which lose tone and become weak through a lack of physicality can be slowly awakened with the support of skilled staff following an individualised water-based programme.
"Senses can be stimulated by a multi-sensory environment including different light effects in and around the water, and atmospheric sounds and music.
Speaking to the donors, she said: "You made my dreams a reality and I will be grateful to you all always."
As well as the Cullum Family Trust, other major donors include KCC, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Edward Gosling Foundation and Peter Harrison Foundation.
The school also sought to raise £100,000 of the £1m needed in their Create a Ripple Make a Splash campaign, through the community.
Ms Murphy said: "We rallied people to hold coffee mornings, run marathons, hold golf events, take up collection tins, put on concerts, cycle great distances, climb things, jump off things. Hundreds of people came together over a period of two years and raised this money."
Alex Meaders, fundraiser at the school, said there were about 60-80 core pupils who will use the pool very regularly, but added that other students will use it too.
Speaking about the benefit of the pool, she said: "It is fun for a lot of them, you see their faces light up, which is really nice.
"They can be independent, if you're pushed around in a wheelchair all day and can't do anything yourself, to actually be in the water and be able to propel yourself, is a really exciting, liberating feeling for them."