Healing waters pool nears goal to open facility in Augusta

Susanne Bouchard stands in the unfinished pool. (photo by Greg Glynn)

by Greg Glynn

When Susanne Bouchard came to Maine from Germany in 1984, she was surprised there weren’t more warm water pools or spas like she had seen in Europe. If she can raise $300,000, that will soon change.

As a Physical Therapist and Licensed Massage therapist for more than 45 years, Susanne’s life mission has been to build a 92-degree warm water pool and spa in Augusta.

As the Founder and CEO of Advanced Health Physical Therapy and Fitness, in Waterville and Augusta, she knows from her years of experience how water therapy can help patients who suffer from pain, obesity, multiple sclerosis, dementia, arthritis, Parkinson’s and other chronic conditions.

Susanne Bouchard

Bouchard says Maine has one of the oldest populations in the country. This was one of the reasons she started her mission in 2007 to build a warm water pool in Augusta. However, when she started fundraising for the pool at 160 Riverside Drive in Augusta, the 2008 recession quickly halted fundraising and plans were put on hold.

During the past 15 years, Bouchard has forged ahead, reaching out to more members of the community to help build the pool. Donations have come from bottle drives, cookie sales and larger corporate donations. One of her most popular ways to raise money is through donating a brick to the construction of the pool. Bricks range from $500-$1,000 and can be purchased in a person’s name or in memory of a loved one. Bouchard has also tried to reach out to local businesses and secure grants, but it has been tough, especially because of the economy and the pandemic.

Today, the physical pool is still under construction supported by the $1 million she has raised, but the COVID-19 pandemic has again deterred her work. The rising cost of materials and construction has impacted the plans to finish the pool, so it sits empty.

One example says Bouchard is the dehumidification system. In the past two years, the cost of the system went up by more than $40,000. This is one reason why raising the money now is more urgent than ever.

Bouchard also says patients and the community are waiting desperately for the interior of the pool to be finished. Her goal is to complete the project by the end of 2022, but she still needs $300,000.

The winter months are especially tough on the elderly, who are less active and don’t get the exercise they need to stay healthy. It’s not just the older population that is waiting.

Trisha Audette, of Winthrop, says, “My body is like a tin man that runs out of oil, so I need that heat during the winter and that’s why I am on board helping out for the pool because it will help so many people that I know, and so many people that I don’t know. It will help children, teenagers, adults, elderly people, it will be beneficial for any age.”

Once built the pool will be open to the public, with affordable membership options ranging from day passes to annual or life-time membership. The Healing Waters Pool is anticipated to bring people to Augusta from across the region and entire state, which would have a positive impact on the local economy.

Hot tub. (photo by Greg Glynn)

The plans for the Healing Waters Pool will include a large wheelchair ramp, making it easy for anyone to get in and out of the pool. Bouchard said many of the local area pools don’t have a 104°F hot tub, 55-65°F cold water tub, which allows for patients to experience a contrast bath. This helps to increase blood flow and promotes healing; it also helps boost the immune system.

The Healing Waters Pool will be a salt-water pool, better for people who have lung or skin conditions and can’t tolerate chlorine. The 92-degree warm water will be warmer than any pool in the region because she wants it to be gentle on muscles, joints and bones. The large saltwater pool will also feature five special massaging jets that are specifically placed for the neck and back. The pool will also have handicap men and women locker rooms and a sauna.

The community facility will also have a gym with a basketball court. Bouchard’s vision is a place where health and fitness can go hand-in-hand with fun and education for all ages. Bouchard gives tours of the pool and facility to anyone who is interested in learning more or donating.

“If everybody just gives $5 or $10 a month, it could make a big difference. I am also trying to find local businesses and sponsors that can help make this dream come true. We offer a lot of fundraising options, including signage inside the pool. If you know anyone or a business that can help, please tell them we would love their support,” said Bouchard.

The Healing Waters Pool is a division of Light of Life Ministries, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. People can donate in person at Advanced Physical Therapy locations in Augusta and Waterville, mail a check to the Healing Waters Pool, 160 Riverside Drive, Augusta ME 04330, or donate online at HealingWatersMaine.com.


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