Newly installed lifeguards at Fred Hampton Aquatic Center prepare for a photograph with Maywood and Proviso East officials on June 12. | Michael Romain/VFP
Monday, June 12, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
During a short ceremony held outside of the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center, 300 Oak St. in Maywood on June 12, a crowd of at least 300 people witnessed six lifeguards receive their official life guard shirt and sunglasses from the West Cook YMCA — the Oak Park-based nonprofit that operates and maintains the aquatic center.
According to YMCA officials, by late afternoon more than 550 people had cycled through the center’s turnstiles to enjoy the pool on its grand opening day.
The scene was particularly special to community members because the lifeguards were trained inside of the swimming pool at Proviso East High School in Maywood.
The Red Cross-certified, 5-week training program that was facilitated by West Cook resulted in the revival of the high school’s pool and may have been the catalyst for what high school officials hope will be regular swimming courses at the school starting next year.
West Cook staff members maintain the pool during the summers, with the village of Maywood sharing half the operating costs with the nonprofit organization. This year was the first time that West Cook collaborated with Proviso East to help train lifeguards from within Maywood and surrounding Proviso Township communities.
From left: Maywood Trustees Kimyada Wellington and Isiah Brandon, Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, West Cook YMCA President & CEO Phillip Jimenez, Maywood Trustee Henderson Yarbrough, Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet and Maywood Trustee Antonio Sanchez. | Michael Romain/VFP
In the past, most lifeguards who worked at Fred Hampton were from other areas due to a dearth of well-trained local young people. The swimming classes at East, West Cook officials have said, worked to fill that void.
“This collaboration is a true example of the impact that can be made when organizations come together and add value to our community,” said Kevin Klein, the West Cook YMCA’s chief operating officer, during the June 12 opening ceremony.
Klein said that he anticipates this pool summer to be the biggest since West Cook since 2011, when West Cook started operating the pool.
“In 2014, we had 1,300 people visit the pool. Last year, the number increased to 4,000 visits. And just last summer, we had as many as 9,000 guest experiences,” Klein said. “Our goal this year is to break into five digits. We want 10,000 guest experiences here at the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center.”
“Fred fought hard for this pool to be in the community,” said Bill Hampton, the brother of the slain Black Panther after whom the pool is named. “We can make this a monument not just to swimming but how to how we got it and how we can keep it well.”
Bill Hampton, second from right, with Maywood Library Trustee John Rice and other members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, which held a small vigil for slain Black Panther leader and the pool’s namesake earlier in the day. | Michael Romain/VFP
Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet said that the pool is an example of the kind of fusion that’s necessary to make a healthy community work — a sentiment that Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins reinforced.
“It can be done and it will take all of us to do it,” Perkins said, before Norfleet praised the parts that “the board, mayor, employees, parents, residents and taxpayers” played in the pool’s existence.
“As long as this park area is green, clean and safe, the people will come,” Norfleet said. “Take away one of those ingredients, the people won’t be here. This is a testimony of the will of the village council and the work of the employees so that we can have this place green, clean and safe.”
The Fred Hampton Aquatic Center, 300 Oak St. in Maywood, is open daily, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., from June 12 until September 4. For more info and/or to buy passes, click here. VFP