West Kelowna celebrates JBMAC's 25th birthday

Tammy Arishenkoff, who was childhood friends with Karen and Janet Johnson, speaks at a 25th birthday celebration of Johnson Bentley Memorial Aquatic Centre Saturday. - Wade Paterson/Capital News
Tammy Arishenkoff, who was childhood friends with Karen and Janet Johnson, speaks at a 25th birthday celebration of Johnson Bentley Memorial Aquatic Centre Saturday.
— image credit: Wade Paterson/Capital News

Six butterflies, representing the six members of the Johnson-Bentley family killed in 1982, can be found on a new memorial sign in the entranceway of Johnson Bentley Memorial Aquatic Centre.

Tammy Arishenkoff, who was close friends with Karen and Janet Johnson, said the family would be happy to see how many smiling faces have passed through that entrance over the past 25 years.

"Janet and Karen would be so happy to know that so many kids have come here and learned to swim, had birthday parties and (have) been able to be kids in this facility," said Arishenkoff.

"This facility, I think, helped our community begin the healing process for losing such a great part of what this community was at the time."

Several people were on hand to celebrate JBMAC's 25th birthday celebration Saturday afternoon.

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said the road that led to the creation of the facility was "far from smooth."

"The path to the facility began with one of the greatest tragedies that our community has known," said Findlater.

"Out of a terrible tragedy, the community rebounded and made something lasting, beneficial and full of life."

According to Rod Barrett, former president of the Johnson Bentley Pool Society, the initial plan was to build something lasting for children and families with the $22,000 that was left over in a community fund for the Johnson-Bentley family.

"We thought about a tennis court, a park…we were looking at what we could do with that $22,000. But some place along the line, someone said we had to think big," said Barrett.

"We started to promote the idea of a pool, we started raising money for it. It was not without controversy because this was a big project for our relatively small community."

On Sept. 14, 1988, the $2.5 million facility was officially opened.

Ron Gorman, president and CEO of Gorman Bros. Lumber Ltd., knew Bob Johnson, who also worked at Gorman Bros. Lumber Ltd.

He shared his memories Saturday, and announced a fund for the next five years—$2,500 per year—for kids who can't afford registration for swimming lessons, so they can still learn to swim.

Findlater also unveiled recent upgrades to JBMAC Saturday, which include a renovated foyer and patio.

Twitter: @PatersonWade


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