Every year during the holidays, my blogs and editorials for TodayinPT.com have focused on asking the question, “What have you done lately?” and then sharing with readers the volunteer work and community-based activities that I have selected to engage in during the holiday season. This personal tradition has given me the opportunity to prepare food for a soup kitchen, feed the homeless during Thanksgiving, provide pro bono physical therapy to patients who do not have insurance, participate in Christmas toy drives, collect gifts for needy families, etc.

This year, I am asking myself the same question, “What have I done lately?” Then I realized that I began formulating the answer to this question four years ago.

In summer 2012, I met Bill Redmon, a community leader and advocate for camp programs for people with disabilities. He also is the founder of the Removing the Barriers Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping organizations to provide experiences that are inclusive of people of all abilities. Redmon and I met to discuss what to include in the design of a water park for individuals with disabilities. He was planning to build the water park at Lake Aurora in Lake Wales, Fla.

Intrigued by the concept, I offered to involve my entire senior PTA class of 2013 in the project. I thought it would be a great opportunity for students to be involved in a meaningful service learning project, while assessing their ability to apply concepts they have learned in the PTA program.

I divided the class into two groups and asked each group to propose a layout for a therapeutic and inclusive aquatic adventure experience, including fixtures, park items and equipment they would recommend. I also asked each team to provide the rationale behind their proposed layout and selection of equipment and fixtures. At the end of the project, Redmon was to evaluate each proposal and select the winning design.

The PTA students produced two distinct water park layouts. Team 1 had a lazy river as a focal point, while Team 2 had a splash pad as its centerpiece. Both teams also provided sound rationale in their recommended fixtures, park items and equipment, taking into account ADA guidelines, balance requirements, visual-perceptual demands, etc., in their selections. In spring 2013 during the students’ graduation ceremony, Redmon declared both teams to have the winning design for the park based on the strength of their proposals. He also decided to combine both layouts in the plan for the water park.

A few years have passed and my class project has morphed into a real plan. It has moved from a no-name project to what is now called Stirring Waters. According to Redmon, the name is based on the story of an encounter that Jesus had with a man who was paralyzed and lying beside a pool in Jerusalem. The belief was that when the pool waters stirred, the first one to enter would be healed. When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed, the man replied, “Yes, but no one will help me into the water.”

Earlier this year, Redmon invited me to become a board member for Stirring Waters. Our goal is to help people with disabilities off the deck and into the water, or as we say, into the fun.

Stirring Waters is amassing an amazing team of architects, therapists, engineers, MBA students at Webber International University and even a giant water slide manufacturer. The latter is collaborating with us in designing “The Includer” — the world’s first fully inclusive two-story water slide, that could lift Barney Moore, one of our board members, from the lazy river to the top of the slide and then gently bring him back into the river. Barney has had quadriplegic cerebral palsy since birth. He will be supported on the world’s first commercial raft system that is intentionally supportive of a person who is quadriplegic.

A number of local therapists, including my former PTA and OTA students at Polk State College in Lakeland, Fla., are providing recommendations for the park’s features. These include safety considerations for people of all abilities, temperature guidelines for the water and accessibility guidelines.

What’s next? Our team has just begun to stir the waters and we know we have a lot of hurdles to get over. What we know is the design for the therapeutic and inclusive aquatic adventure experience is still evolving and new opportunities will emerge. However, we are guided by the principle that “you are not limited by your resources, but by your vision.”

How about you? What have you done lately? Will you help us stir the waters?

Visit our Physical Therapy Continuing Education page for education options that suit your needs.