​Making a difference in our communities: California dreams come true

"When I was young, we heard rumors about a pool being built," recalled Nancy Perez, public affairs intern at the Phillips 66 Los Angeles Refinery, "but after a few years, we thought the idea just drifted away."

Residents of the Wilmington, California, community have dreamed of a year-round recreational swimming pool for nearly 10 years. Through a community contribution from the Phillips 66 Los Angeles Refinery, that dream is becoming a reality with the recently completed Wilmington YMCA Aquatic Center.

"It felt very surreal when I found out that the pool was actually being built after all these years! We don't have a lot of resources available to teach the kids to swim, so this is really amazing to see it here now," said Perez.

"The YMCA (in Oklahoma) is where I learned to swim," said Darin Fields, Los Angeles Refinery manager. "You can't pick a better place to bring your kids and allow them to learn."

Making a DifferenceAt the grand opening earlier this year, U.S. Olympic gold medalist Jessica Hardy led swim clinics in the new pool after a morning of activities hosted by the Wilmington YMCA.

Hardy grew up in Long Beach, five miles from Wilmington. "This is a beautiful location in southern California, and the need to have an indoor pool is great," said Hardy. "I almost drowned, actually, when I was three years old, so I got enrolled in swim lessons because of that."

After the event, Hardy signed autographs for attendees and swim clinic participants. "It's like having Adam Levine or Taylor Swift right next to you," said Andres Ramirez, a 12-year-old junior lifeguard of Hardy. "Out of all of the places to visit, they chose for an Olympian to come to Wilmington."

The aquatic center provides an affordable way for children and residents of all ages to learn how to swim. "I've tried to take my kids to swimming classes in the past, but they're expensive," said Norma Miramontes, Wilmington resident, "now that the pool is here, our children will have more opportunities to learn how to swim."

As for the future, will the next Olympic swimmer come from the Wilmington YMCA? "Southern California has a huge tradition in swimming," Hardy proudly remarked. "I think there's definitely potential in these kids and I would love to see that happen."