Forward Thinking

How a few key community members are helping make aquatics more accessible.

This year, the Bellevue-based initiative SPLASHForward secured its first major private and first major corporate donations, getting them closer to the finish line of building a new kind of aquatics center in Washington. A handful of Bellevue Club members are at the helm of the project and want to let you know how and why you can help.

What is SPLASHForward?
SPLASHForward is a non-profit initiative that was created to bring a world-class public aquatics center to the Bellevue community. Focused on recreation, health, safety, education and affordable access, the vision includes an indoor facility with leisure, teaching and competition pools, complete with spectator seating, a deep-water tank, therapy pool, fitness areas and more.

Who is leading the charge?
Bellevue Club member and longtime endurance athlete, Susan Pappalardo, is the president and co-founder of SPLASHForward. However, there are numerous other members and community leaders involved in the effort. The board of directors includes nine locals,
all volunteering their professional services, plus a host of consultants. “I got involved in 2017, and at that time, I had no idea I’d end up running this non-profit,” Pappalardo says.  “But it’s something easy for me because it combines my passions for swimming and athletics with being a community connector. In the end that’s what it’s all about—connection and community.”

What is the education component of SPLASHForward?
SPLASHForward partnered with the Bellevue School District to help with water safety and educational classes. “This past April, SPLASHForward initiated a High School Lifeguard Training program to help address the local shortage of lifeguards and to provide high school students the opportunity to not only learn lifesaving skills, but also obtain a job as a lifeguard at our local pools and beaches,” Pappalardo says.

What stage is SPLASHForward currently in?
“The goal for this year is to provide the Bellevue City Council with a recommended concept plan and advance to the design concept study phase on a preferred site–the City has been very supportive, but they need full details on the scale of all of the necessary components, the site, costs, and most importantly the partnerships and funding sources,” Pappalardo says. In mid October, at the time of publication, they were set to present their plan to the Bellevue City Council.

Are there private donors behind the effort?
Yes. Bellevue Club member and Masters swimmer Tim Adkisson was the first major private donor, and he graciously did so in March of 2021 in honor of his late wife and fellow swimmer, Joan. “The reason I did it was because she was a big supporter of the effort; she would’ve given it herself if she was around to do so,” Adkisson says.  “Swimming was an integral part of her life.” Pappalardo says she was thrilled for their very first major individual donor to have such a meaningful reason for making a gift. “He impresses me to
no end in his desire to align himself with what we’re doing as a way to honor Joan,” she says.

What about corporate donors?
The largest donor to date is Amazon, which donated $100,000 this summer. “It’s a huge validation that there is interst in this project and recognition of the community benefits and impact,” she says. “I’m excited to use it as leverage for other important conversations. Amazon has lifted us up, and made it possible to imagine taking the next steps.”

How do you plan to use that money?
“The first task is to hire a professional to assess our private fundraising capacity,” Pappalardo says. “We will also allocate some of those the funds for our high school lifeguard program.”

To learn more about SPLASHForward, please visit splashforward.org.

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