SALEM, N.H. — The sounds of splashing from the first cannon balls into the Boys & Girls Club of Salem's new indoor pool and laughter from children echoed around the pool deck. Everything was brand new as dozens of donors gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony for the organization’s pool.
“To be talking about this for over a decade, and now seeing kids actually jump in a new pool is amazing,” said Chris Nicoli, chairman of the board of directors for the organization.
The pool at the Boys & Girls Club of Salem originally opened in 1974. As the pool aged it got to the point where fixing it wasn’t an option. Last year the organization had to decide between filling it in or rebuilding the pool from scratch. Determined to keep an indoor pool in Salem, they began fundraising.
The project was kick-started last year when an anonymous donor pledged $200,000 to the project, if it was matched by people in the community. It was, easily, Nicoli recalled. They raised the estimated cost of the project, about $400,000, in one day.
However, as with many construction projects, unexpected costs crept in.
Organizers from the center continued to fundraise, and people in the community overwhelmingly stepped in.
The project ran $160,000 over its original estimate, Executive Director Marco Abreu said. Community members raised 95% of the total $560,000 project, Nicoli said.
“There were no negative impacts (of the project) on the kids,” Nicoli said.
The organization is looking forward to continuing the decades of the tradition of teaching children to swim, and having water aerobics for seniors, and everything in between. The Boys & Girls Club of Salem often rent out the pool to other groups, such as the Senior Center, to host activities.
One of the project’s largest donors, Russell Ingram, said he was happy to have helped everyone in the community. He and his wife also donated funds for the Ingram Senior Center, so he said, “we got the people together, old people, and young people, all sides of the spectrum.”
Denise Dolloff, director of development, was elated to see everything come together.
“Everyone was so generous, and we are thrilled to see that the community recognized this need, and helped us to accomplish our goal,” Dolloff said.
With the new pool also comes a new aquatics director, Sheryl “Scotty” Scott, who is busy fielding ideas of how best to utilize the new pool.
“With the state of the art pool we can plan out what we want to do, not only for this year but for years to come,” Abreu said. He explained it wasn’t easy to plan with the aging pool that could have the filter break or experience other issues at any time.
The pool has been under construction for months, and the kids were excited to jump in Thursday night. They didn’t run, it was more of a brisk walk to cannon ball in.
While treading water, Abreu’s son said, “it’s refreshing, Dad, jump in.”
Members of the public are invited to splash around for the pool’s grand opening on Saturday. Swimming activities begin at 9 a.m. More information can be found at salembgc.org.