Trenton Resident Creates True Community with Water Walkers

Photo courtesy of Donna Wellons

During the pandemic, there weren’t many places to go, but the city pools were one place to find recreation.

“The pool was the only thing that was open, outside of ShopRite and Home Depot,” said Donna Wellons, Trenton resident and creator of Water Walkers.

One day, during the pandemic, Wellons was joking around in Trenton’s outdoor Hetzel Pool, which is located in Hetzel Field, 140 N. Olden Ave., as her friend recorded her.

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“Join me as we do water exercises,” Wellons said jokingly on video while doing all kinds of exercises. “It was super comical,” she said.

However, after posting the video on Facebook, people began asking, “Where’s the class?” and things suddenly began to take off!

The free classes meet every morning during the summer, weather permitting, from Mondays through Saturdays, 9 to 10 a.m. Wellons, who is a certified water aerobics instructor, gives most of the classes, but sometimes volunteers help teach the class. Wellon’s godsister, Erin Hollis, played a significant role in getting the ball rolling by looking up water exercises for the group to do.

The first class had six or seven people and by the end of the first year, 14 or 15 came out, though not consistently. Then it got momentum and it got serious. Last year, ended with 33 women in the pool. Even Mayor Gusciora came out and did the water exercises, Wellons shared.

The program attracts mostly seniors, from their 60s to 80s—and even a woman who is 92 years old who comes every day! It’s also a faith-based program. Early on, Wellons said some of the women stayed behind after the class and opened up to her, telling her things they were going through, which led her to open in prayer. The class will do exercises on one side of the pool, then speak affirmations as they walk to the other side. They also sing traditional and non-traditional hymns.

“Everyone is welcome,” said Wellons. “It’s not spiritually deep, but I will acknowledge God in the process. It does have a spiritual tone; I won’t deny that. That had been a part of what has attracted people as well.” She shared that she can’t express the joy that Water Walkers has brought. “Not only to people who come, but to me as well,” she said. “One day I was leaving the pool and I heard the young lifeguards singing hymns they heard us singing in the pool.”

While not exactly a fitness enthusiast, Wellons would say she’s more into swimming. “I love the water,” she shared. “I’m 55 years old, but every summer I have season passes to the waterpark. You know, people get older and lose interest in the pool. I always stayed in the water.”

At the end of each season, Water Walkers has a cookout and fellowship. Relationships have developed and people support each other’s events. Wellons finds it all phenomenal how this all stemmed from her goofing around in the pool.

For the past 24 years, Wellons worked at Village Charter School in Trenton. When she’s not working or hosting Water Walkers, she enjoys writing plays for “Seniors in the Park,” which are put on by volunteer actors. This is her third year and she’s in the midst of writing a mini-drama piece.

“We perform for the seniors in our community,” she explained. “But it’s not limited to seniors.”  The plays include lunch for the seniors, so tables are set up, and there is space available for others to come and watch. “We ask the younger people to bring chairs,” she said.

All in all, Wellons just enjoys serving her community “as opposed to trying to reach for the stars,” she said enthusiastically.

To learn more about Water Walkers, visit Donna Wellons on her Facebook page at:

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