Fundraising effort aims to help those with special needs access pool for therapy

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Finding the words can sometimes be tough for Anna-Marie Rowley’s 11 year old daughter.

“What’s your name? You can’t talk?” she asked.

But maybe all you need to hear is her first name to understand why hope never leaves their family.

“What’s your name?” Rowley asked again.

A moment later, she finally responds.

“Hope, Hope, your baby.”

Born with part of her brain missing, the doctors didn’t expect Hope Rowley to live more than a year.

“It’s a good name for you, huh? Yeah, yup, it is a good name,” Rowley said.

With a diagnosis similar to cerebral palsy, Hope moves around the house with difficulty. Sometimes her two hands are better than her two feet.

“Crawling around, walking in the walker, it’s all so much work and she’s slow. It’s so painfully slow to watch her,” Rowley said.

But all that changes when she gets in the water.

“The goal for Hope is that she’s going to dance at her 6th grade dance,” said Liz Eagan, a hydrotherapy specialist in Salt Lake County.

Eagan has been working with Hope in the pool since Hope was just a few months old, teaching her how to use her muscles, the way her brain can’t.

“It’s unbelievably critical for a child to want to walk and to have the surgeries to walk and to learn to walk, and it’s easier to do it with zero gravity, or less gravity,” Eagan said.

But at the moment, they’re limited to the length of a hot tub because the specialized pool Eagan used to rent out for her clients is no longer available. Now, she’s searching for a permanent solution.

“We’re not meeting their needs," Eagan said. “We’re not meeting their needs in this state. That blows my mind. I can’t believe that no one has taken this on before.”

She started a fundraising effort online two days ago using GoFundMe.com. The goal is to raise approximately $100,000 to lease out a pool from Salt Lake County. The facility is part of the old location of the Hartvigsen School, which is a school for special needs students.

“Can you imagine not being able to walk and just sit there and want to go do something and you can’t,” Eagan said. “As an able-bodied person, it’s hard to understand how frustrating and how segregating that is for someone who wants to do it.”

For the Rowleys, it’s hard to picture that when it’s so easy to see the progress being made in the water, and the hope it’s bringing their little girl, as well as so many others.

“My dream is for her to be happy. That’s it. I just want her to be happy,” Rowley said.

If you would like to make a donation, you can visit Eagan's GoFundMe page.