YMCA dedicates Donnie Williams Aquatic Center

An indoor warm-water pool designed for both young children and senior citizens is open for business at the Richard A. Henson Family YMCA in Salisbury, where officials last week cut the ribbon at the new 15,000-square-foot building.

The Donnie Williams Aquatic Center will be the site of adult aquatic exercise classes and children’s swimming lessons.

Warm-water pools are ideal for teaching young children how to swim and for senior citizens who benefit from water recreation, according to YMCA officials.

The pool is named for the late businessman Donnie Williams, whose foundation made a significant lead gift. Williams loved Salisbury and supporting activities for children. 

“He often talked about finding ‘a place with blue water,’ so it is fitting that local children will enjoy the blue water in a new pool,” said Kevin Les Callette, development director, YMCA of the Chesapeake.

The building and the pool – known as a natatorium – was funded with $1.295 million from the Richard A. Henson Foundation and $500,000 from the Donnie Williams Foundation

The late Henson — and later the Henson Foundation — have thus far invested $5.9 million in the YMCAs in Salisbury, Pocomoke City and Hagerstown.

Henson’s initial gift to the Y was in 1987. An aviation pioneer, as a young man he was a member of the YMCA Teen Club in Hagerstown.

Williams, who died in 2012, left an estate to form a foundation to support children throughout Wicomico, Worcester and St. Mary’s counties.

The new aquatic center is expected to have a huge impact on closing identified aquatic programming gaps in Wicomico County.

Gillis Gilkerson, a Salisbury construction management and general contracting firm, was selected to build the natatorium.

The 13,500-square-foot building includes bathrooms with lockers and showers and a corridor that connects it to the lobby of the existing building. The indoor pool has a surface area of 4,335 square feet and is equipped with a zero depth entry level to make it more accessible for families with small children. 

The water will be set at a warmer temperature than the other lap pool to cater to senior citizens. The pool will also include play features such as slides, buckets and sprinklers. 

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