Campus: CSU Northridge -- March 21, 2003

CSUN to Celebrate Opening of Brown Center: Pool Therapy Complex Offers Hope to Chronically Disabled

Cal State Northridge will celebrate the opening of a new $6 million aquatic therapy center for the chronically disabled with a dedication ceremony on Friday, March 28.

The Abbott and Linda Brown Western Center for Adaptive Aquatic Therapy will offer new hope to those with serious disabilities while also training CSUN students in the latest technology and application of water treatment techniques.

"This is truly a place where miracles will occur," said CSUN President Jolene Koester.

The dedication -featuring speaker Joni Eareckson Tada, an internationally known disability advocate - will take place at 10:30 a.m. next to the Kinesiology Building on the east side of the campus.

The university's acclaimed Center of Achievement for the Physically Disabled, founded and directed by CSUN kinesiology professor Sam Britten, already serves about 400 community and student clients each year through low-cost therapeutic exercise programs. With the addition of the aquatic program, the center ultimately expects to double or triple its client base.

The advantage of water-based exercise is that it gives even those with serious and chronic disabilities the freedom of movement with little or no pain, compared to exercising in a land-based program. This is primarily due to the buoyancy of water, which provides an ideal environment for the body to function with reduced gravitational stress.

"We are really dealing with after care - after medical treatment and after rehabilitation - for people with chronic disabilities like arthritis, multiple sclerosis and stroke," Britten said.

"There are about 180,000 people with chronic disabilities in this region and there is little or no help for them after they are released from the hospital and/or therapy.

However, the unique extended care program at the CSUN Center of Achievement is making a significant difference and with the opening of the Brown Center offers hope for more people."

The Center's new state-of-the-art aquatic addition was made possible through $2 million in lead funding from Abbott and Linda Brown and their Ridgestone Foundation. The Browns' original $1.5 million contribution in February 2000 was CSUN's largest single alumni gift. Linda Brown is a CSUN alum. The Browns are expected to attend the March 28 dedication. The federal government also contributed nearly $1 million through the efforts of U.S. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon.

Speaker Joni Eareckson Tada survived a diving accident that left her a quadriplegic and later went through an exercise program with Britten in the late 1970s that enabled her to begin driving a specially modified van.

Through the decades, Britten said the center's therapeutic exercise programs have enabled thousands of people with chronic disabilities to improve their health and functional abilities. Given sufficient time, many have even learned how to walk, and/or drive a vehicle again. The Center helped one woman who was confined to a wheelchair with severe cerebral palsy to first regain the ability to independently manage her own personal care, later walk with a walker down the aisle at her wedding, and finally to drive her own modified van.

"Who knows the human potential?" said Britten. "We are only limited by our own expectations. It's really up to you and up to me how far we are going to drive ourselves. If we stop striving, we stop developing. Even for the severely disabled, they have so much that remains to be developed. But they're generally not given the opportunity to do so."

The new 18,400-square-foot Brown Center consists of a main 60 x 24-foot heated therapy pool with two underwater treadmills; a 30 x 24-foot heated pool with a vertically adjustable floor, allowing the university for the first time to expand its services to children; a 17 x 10-foot spa aimed at helping those with joint and soft tissue injuries; and a 26 x 24-foot cool water pool suited to those with multiple sclerosis and similar conditions that respond better in cooler environments.

Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler (818) 677-2130

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