It was a big day for Oliver Finlayson when his pool arrived on Monday, Nov. 16.
The pool will be a life-changer for nine-year-old Oliver, and it wouldn’t have happened without the help of the Cowichan Lake community. Through generous fundraising and in-kind work, the community made Oliver’s pool possible.
“I’ve never lived in such a special place where everyone still gives people the shirts off their backs,” Oliver’s mom, Amie Mattice said.
Oliver lives with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and time in the water is a big help in coping with the condition. Hydrotherapy helps him relax and helps him get stronger, not to mention that he just loves swimming. He was travelling to Duncan for hydrotherapy treatment at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, which was inconvenient enough before the facility shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week marks one year since the family started the process of buying and installing the pool.
“We started fundraising for a pool because we were sick and tired of going to Duncan all the time,” Mattice explained.
Among many other supporters, the Kinsmen Club, friends, family and the rest of the community have joined the campaign to help Oliver. The family has made more than $5,000 from collecting cans and bottles, and the Help Fill a Dream Foundation contributed $10,000.
“Lots of people have come together to fundraise,” Mattice commented.
Oliver was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a neuromuscular disorder, five years ago, shortly after the family moved to Lake Cowichan from Sooke. Among other effects, Oliver will lose the ability to walk as he grows up.
“By the early teens, the heart and respiratory muscles may also be affected,” reads an explanation on Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s website. “A diagnosis of DMD includes a shortened life expectancy and the expectation that eventually, equipment such as a wheelchair and respiratory aids will be required. With exciting new advances in research into DMD over recent years, incredible increases in quality of life and life expectancy are being experienced by patients.”
There are ways to stem the effects of DMD, such as hydrotherapy, and Oliver is taking part in a clinical trial at BC Children’s Hospital. He is aware of his condition, but that doesn’t make things easier for the family.
“He knows what’s going to happen,” Mattice said. “But it’s still not easy to talk about in front of him.”
The pool isn’t the only addition to the Finlayson-Mattice residence that has been made possible by the community’s generosity. Neighbours Al and Janene coordinated an effort between Karlite Manufacturing and Irly Bird to get a ramp built at the front steps, and another couple, Tonya and Chris Halusiak, got Coastal Concrete Works and Surespan involved in building the pad for the pool in the backyard.
Gary Miller also donated time and materials to help get the pool up and running.
“A lot of people have come together,” Mattice said. Even now that it is installed, the family still owes a good chunk of money for the pool. To get it paid off, they will continue to collect cans, and have a GoFundMe site set up at https://www.gofundme.com/f/a-pool-for-oliver