Orleans County is one of the most beautiful and most rural areas of Vermont and the Northeastern United States. Its glacially carved lakes are legendary for their clarity and beauty. It is a place with working farms, working forests, and broad vistas. Indoor Recreation orleans County (IROC) is a 54,000 square foot, sports, fitness, and recreation facility, built largely with private donations. It houses a multi-purpose sports arena with basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, golf, baseball, and in-line skating. Its gym offers a host of cardiovascular exercise equipment plus free weights and machines, and its aquatic center is home to a four lane swimming pool, with waterslide, child's wading area, and therapy pool. It has an indoor, padded, 1/10th of a mile rotary walkng track used predominantly by seniors. IROC is committed to offering memberships which are affordable to the entire community.
It is truly extraordinary that such a facility could be built and operated in such a rural, financially challenged area of the Northeast.
IROC's ground breaking and highly successful Healthy Changes Initiative offers memberships for $15 a month to those who suffer from chronic conditions on a "use it or lose it" basis. Only by exercising at least 12 times a month do the participants earn the next month's discount. No excuses. (After the first year, the price goes up to $25 per month). Qualifying conditions include diabetes, obesity, heart disease, MS, rhematoid arthritis and fibromylagia. The program has been expanded to include cancer patients and cancer survivors, as well as, all seniors 65 years or older. Most recently, IROC partnered with a health insurer, MVP, to offer this program to all of MVP's members. "It's very simple, " says Phil White, Executive Director of IROC who started this initiative. "We know that regular exercise can help people manage, contain, and even improve chronic conditions. We know that regular exercise can help prevent many of these conditions from developing. We've tried to build into the program heavy incentives to promote regular exercise. And it works. We've seen peoples lives change before our very eyes."
IROC also raises funds on a town-by-town basis so that area youth can have free youth memberships. On many a Saturday, all three basketball courts will be busy with pick-up teams "running and gunning" all afternoon. All winter long, adult league play, co-ed soccer, women's soccer, men's basketball, and co-ed volleyball keep the Pronto Sports Arena busy. Border Hoop fills Fridays and Saturdays with youth basketball players.
All told, 20% of the area's residents are either members or regular users of the facility. But, the facility still remains $1.4 Million in debt from construction and start-up costs, and is struggling for its very survival.
In 2007, IROC began a series of outdoor running, biking, and swimming events, which have steadily grown, drawing thousands of participants, family, and friends from over 35 different states, five Canadian provinces, Mexico, Great Britain, and as far away as Mumbai, India. It started Kingdom Swim in 2009, created the Northeast Open water Swimming Association in 2010, added the Willoughby Swim, and supports 6 open water swims in the Northeast kingdom of Vermont, including last year's epic 25 mile international swim the length of Lake Memphremagog, In Search of Memphre. In part, as a result of its efforts, the Daily News of Open Water swimming selected Lake Memphremagog and Lake Willoughby as two of the great open water swim venues in the Americas. Its support of open water swimming and open water swimmers as individuals, as well as, the mission and programs of the center, has been taken to heart by the open water swimming community. Last year alone, swimmers raised over $95,000 to support the facility and its Healthy Changes Initiative.