Water for a Warrior

APSP chapter members develop grassroots nonprofit

In 2015, Jack and Jennifer Bishop, Ernie Weigum and Kirk Johnson built a pool for a combat-wounded veteran in their Southern California community. The project was so well received that the group formed a 501(c)(3) called Water for a Warrior. The organization provides pools, hot tubs and swim spas to aid in wounded veterans’ therapy and recovery.

“For these veterans, hot tubs aren’t luxuries,” Jennifer Bishop says. “They are medically necessary, and a lot of them have been prescribed hydrotherapy and have no viable means of getting it done.”

The organization first provided a hot tub to a corporal in Kentucky through a partnership with Aurora Pools & Spas in Lexington, Kentucky. At 22 years old, a combat wound caused shrapnel to go up his nasal canal and into his brain, causing severe problems with muscle constriction. His mother rolled out his muscles several times a day so he could move. When Bishop followed up after the hot tub delivery, his mother cried. “She said he is in it at least twice a day and he gets to be 22 for a change,” Bishop relays. “She said he doesn’t have to have his mommy taking care of him, and he tells her that he feels better to his bones. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Initially, the plan was to provide for needs around Sacramento and then branch out to Nevada, Arizona and Texas. But word spread among wounded veterans quickly: “We’re getting calls from Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and it just took on a life of its own,” Bishop says.

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It’s been hard to keep up with all the requests and, while the Kentucky corporal only waited two months for his hot tub, most have been waiting for six months or more. With each request, Bishop starts cold calling dealers in the area.

“I try to make it clear we’re not asking for a 100 percent donation,” she says. “We understand that’s not always feasible and doable. One of our goals is to develop some partnerships, so it’s not so much of a resource drain — that we have a Rolodex we can go to.” Water for a Warrior is an all-volunteer organization and is 100 percent donation-funded. It looks for anything that can help, including discounts and refurbished used hot tubs.

“We feel bad for the veterans who are so anxiously waiting and in dire need, and we feel it’s really a win-win for the industry,” Bishop says. “We want everyone to know that the health benefits of hydrotherapy are phenomenal.”