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Bethesda launches capital campaign

WILLMAR -- The exercise equipment that will be installed in Bethesda Health and Housing's new senior wellness center is designed to be kind to older adults -- safe, easy to use and gentle on aging muscles and joints.

Bethesda officials see it as one of the ways Bethesda can help keep the community's seniors vital, healthy and independent.

"This is becoming main stream as all age groups embrace the preventive health strategies," said Michelle Haefner, chief operating officer of Bethesda.

To do so, Bethesda is looking for financial support from the community -- $250,000, to be exact, to equip the new fitness and rehab center with state-of-the-art exercise machines.

The capital campaign by Bethesda Health and Housing and the Bethesda Foundation was officially launched Tuesday during a news conference.

Officials hope to raise the entire amount by August, when construction on the first phase of the wellness center will be complete.

"It's pretty ambitious, but I think it's doable," said Doug Dewane, Bethesda's chief executive.

About $25,000 has already been contributed, he said.

Donations will be sought from both individual and corporate givers, said Wayne Nelson, chairman of the campaign.

"To reach our goal, generous gifts will be necessary," he said.

Ground was broken at Bethesda Pleasant View last August for the $6 million senior wellness center, which is being built in three phases across three years. The innovative project includes a rehab and fitness center, a warm-water therapeutic pool, a juice bar and a spa that will offer relaxation therapies such as yoga and massage. It will also house expanded room for physical, occupational and speech therapy, adult day services and short-term rehabilitation, as well as the Bethesda Home Health offices.

It will be open not only to residents of Bethesda's two nursing homes and senior housing but to older adults from throughout the community.

The idea, said Dewane, is to provide resources "to keep people healthy and at home, which is where they prefer to be."

At Tuesday's news conference, which was attended by some two dozen Bethesda staff and community officials, sample exercise equipment was unveiled so that people could have a chance to try it.

Most of the equipment is being purchased from Helsinki University Research, a Finland company whose designs include machines tailored with older exercisers in mind. Sixteen machines have been ordered, Haefner said.

Computerized touchscreen programs will allow for easy-to-use exercise programs customized to each individual's needs. The equipment also is accessible for people who have mobility issues or who need a wheelchair.

"It's on the leading edge," said David Herzer, the steering committee chairman. "You can see why the board and all of us are so excited."

The development of Bethesda's wellness center will create new opportunities for Bethesda to partner with other local therapy and rehabilitation providers, he said.

"This equipment is going to make aging much more fun," Herzer said. "We know it will be successful and a true added benefit for the citizens of Willmar."

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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