A grand opening of the facility on Feb. 2 drew a good attendance of tribal officials, tribal and community members and several involved in the development and completion of the project.

WYANDOTTE – The Eastern Shawnee Tribe's Wellness Center now offers aquatic therapy with the addition of an Aquatic Center including a HydroWorx underwater treadmill in a therapy pool, a large indoor pool, and hot tub. An indoor walking track was also built into the facility.

A grand opening of the facility on Feb. 2 drew a good attendance of tribal officials, tribal and community members and several involved in the development and completion of the project.

“It's a very proud day for us today and we're glad you're here to share this with us,” The Wellness Center's Director Ron Wallace welcomed and thanked the attendees.

George Blanchard, “Mr. George,” the tribes' language specialist offered a prayer in the tribe's Shawnee language.

“This is truly a magnificent day for us, in more ways than one. This Wellness Center is something that did not happen overnight,” Eastern Shawnee Tribe's Chief Glenna Wallace said.

Wallace said she endeavored for many years to get a swimming pool and walking track included in the facility, and she is proud of the addition of the Aquatic Center, which fit together to complete the Wellness Center to serve the tribal members and the entire community.

Chief Wallace thanked the HUD Committee, Eastern Shawnee Tribal Administrator Chad Kelly, tribal staff and administration and business committee and the contractors, Branco Enterprises, Inc of Neosho, Mo.

Branco representatives were given gifts of appreciation for their work on the project.

An indoor walking track was also built into the facility and after the opening remarks the children of the Eastern Shawnee Early Learning Center lead the first official lap around the track and cut the ribbon in the opening ceremony.

Chief Wallace acknowledged 89-year-old Maxine McCorkell who walks the track every morning at 5 a.m. for four miles.

“I think it's wonderful and I'm so anxious to start walking on that. I'm so excited about it,” McCorkell said.

The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma's Wellness Center now provides the Tribe and surrounding community with a faster way to heal in a pain-free, safe environment. Aquatic therapy allows for a way to safely accelerate rehabilitation with less pain for individuals with a myriad of ailments. The HydroWorx products are used by the top healthcare and sports facilities worldwide, according to Director Wallace.

“It works just like a regular treadmill, you can adjust the speed up or down, it keeps track of how long you've walked,” he said. “Another feature of the HydroWorx pool is water massage to target sore muscles and joints. As far as I know, we're the only tribe in the state of Oklahoma that has a therapy pool, other tribes have swimming pools and hot tubs, but this is a unique feature.”

The HydroWorx underwater treadmill can help patrons with intervention and post-injury treatments and provides an opportunity for sports or general conditioning and training.

During a tour of the facility's additions, Director Wallace explained HydroWorx’s patented underwater treadmill is integrated seamlessly into the pool floor revolutionizing rehabilitation, conditioning, and recovery.

“By taking advantage of the body’s buoyancy in water, a HydroWorx pool will eliminate from 20 to 90 percent of an individual’s body weight. For example, in collarbone-deep water, a 200-pound subject will bear only 20 pounds while in the aquatic therapy pool. This, in conjunction with therapeutic warm water, allows for substantially decreased joint compression and pain,” he said.

As a result, he said, with HydroWorx, early range-of-motion gains during rehab are immediately a reality. Gait training in a low impact environment allows for earlier replication of proper ambulatory biomechanics, which was formerly postponed until pain-free, land-based training was possible.

Fitness Coordinator and Personal Trainer Missy Curtis and patron Kathy Ackersen demonstrated the new HydroWorx treadmill during the tour. Ackersen is now able to walk without a cane and attributes her success to the rehabilitation offered at the center along with Curtis' guidance and support.

“It's wonderful. When I started coming out here four years ago, I was walking with a cane, and I just have continued to come,” Ackersen said.

“Exercise on a regular treadmill can be harder on joints sometimes,” Curtis said. “Heavier people who have a desire to workout sometimes find it hurts to run. This is an amazing option. One of the things Kathy works on is balance and being able to raise her leg and stand on one foot which is easier and safer in the water.”

“This place is amazing, we're so blessed to have it,” Ackersen said.

Director Wallace said, hydrostatic pressure promotes the healing and strengthening of injured tissue by reducing joint stiffness, decreasing swelling, and lowering blood pressure levels.

Cardiovascular stamina, muscle toning, and flexibility are augmented by the resistance that water provides.

The Eastern Shawnee Wellness Center opened in November of 2010 funded by a Housing and Urban Development, Indian Community Development Block Grant, the addition of an Activity Center was completed in July 2011.

The Wellness Center accommodates patrons of all fitness levels offering a knowledgeable and experienced staff. Along with the addition of the Aquatic Center, the Wellness Center offers cardio equipment, free-weights, assisted machines, and a basketball gymnasium.

The Aquatic Center is available for aquasize classes, volleyball, and swimming activities.

Plans are to add an infrared sauna at some point, according to Wallace.

The Wellness Center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and also offers a massage therapist on staff as well as a licensed cosmetologist offering manicures and pedicures.

“So, from 89 years of age down to, we go to six weeks, we're here for everyone,” Chief Wallace said of the Eastern Shawnee tribal facilities and programs.

For more information please feel free to contact the Wellness Center Director Ron Wallace at 918-666- 5220 or by email rwallace@estoo.net. You can also follow the ESTOO Wellness Center on Facebook at Eastern Shawnee Wellness Center.

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.