Aquatic Access Inc, Louisville, Ky, joined in a televised effort to build an accessible home for Hendersonville, Tennessee’s “Hero Mom”, Amy Hawkins this summer.

On April 7 of this year, an F3 tornado ripped through Hendersonville killing nine people and leaving a huge path of destruction through the small community just outside of Nashville. As the storm bore down, Amy received a telephoned warning from her husband Jerrod, a firefighter, so she fled to the basement with her two children in tow. As the house came down around her, Amy threw her body over her children to protect them from the falling debris. When the storm was over, Jair, 6, and Cole, 3, escaped with minor injuries, but their brave mom suffered serious injuries, which have left her paralyzed from the waist down.

After extensive rehab, Amy was finally released from an Atlanta hospital in July, but came home to an empty lot where the Hawkins’ home once stood. That is when her neighbors joined together to assist the family. The local Rotary Club presented them with a van equipped with a wheelchair lift, and a local bank collected donations. Meanwhile, a petition circulated to bring the family’s plight to the attention of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Over 50,000 signatures were collected as the community rallied around the family. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” rose to the challenge and began to plan a special home for the Hawkins, including a pool and spa combination in the backyard where Amy can enjoy aquatic exercise. More and more, it has been realized that aquatic therapy is particularly beneficial for those who have the most difficulty getting into and out of pools.

This is the third time “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” has called upon Aquatic Access for assistance. In April 2004, a custom-designed lift was built for Robert Zitek of Ventura, Calif. Robert had been seriously injured in a car accident and aquatic therapy was an important part of his rehabilitation. In December of that year, Aquatic Access designed and built a lift for Jhyre Sears, a young woman suffering from Krabbe’s disease. Aquatic Access has also built lifts for various Make-A-Wish and Dream Factory projects across the country.

Aquatic Access has been manufacturing water-powered pool lifts for private and public pools around the world for over 20 years. The company was born in the Anchorage, Ak, garage of John E. Nolan, who first developed water-powered pool lifts in 1981. Today the company is located in Bluegrass Industrial Park in Jeffersontown and employs 20 workers. John Nolan’s daughter Linda Nolan is the company president. Son David Nolan is the company’s vice president and chief engineer, and holds the patent for the IGAT-180, the original automatic pool lift that meets ADA recommendations for public pools. Nolan, collaborating with engineers Lee Holmes and Justin Watkins, designed the two custom lifts for the pool and spa. Nolan, Watkins, and shop supervisor Bill Robinson installed the lifts at the Hawkins home. The lifts for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” are always built on short, and very critical, deadlines. All of the employees at Aquatic Access play a part in a team effort to get the lifts built correctly and off to the construction site in time for the unveiling of the home.

On Friday, July 29, Ty Pennington, host of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” roused the Hawkins family in their temporary home in Brentwood with a megaphone, crowds of onlookers, and television cameras. The cast and crew of the program helped the Hawkins family gather their possessions and spirited them away for a Disney World vacation while Capitol Homes and dozens of contractors and donors pitched in to build a dream home for a brave lady and her family. A week later, the family returned to a new home that will accommodate all of their needs.

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” appears on ABC, Sundays 8/7c and aired the Hawkins segment October 8.

[SOURCE: Aquatic Access Inc, October 2006]