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HHS alumnus is among '11 Who Care'

Hannah Lieder, center, brought some special supporters with her to the “11 Who Kare” award ceremony. From left are Javon Sledd and Andrew Njogu, who spoke before the Minnesota legislature about the importance of a pool for his neighborhood.

Wants all children to learn to swim

By Meg Heaton

A Hudson High School graduate was among those recognized for their community service at the annual KARE television “11 Who Care” awards in July. Hannah Wellman Lieder grew up in Hudson and graduated from Hudson High School in 1974, but it is what she is doing in her home now, the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis, that made her one of the 11 award-winners this year.

Since 2009 Lieder has been leading an effort to restore an indoor swimming pool to the Phillips neighborhood and create a swimming program that will ensure that all children in Minneapolis have the opportunity to learn to swim.

According to Lieder, there currently are no indoor pools in the urban core of the city. There are three pools in the outer, more affluent areas of the city but “nothing for the thousands of children who live in the heart of the City of Lakes.” Lieder pointed to the deaths of three neighborhood children and another near drowning over the past several years as part of her motivation to make the potential life-saving skill of swimming available to the families of the Phillips neighborhood.

The neighborhood had a 50,000-square-foot facility that contained a pool and gym but it was scheduled to be demolished in 2010. That’s when Lieder founded Minneapolis Swims and began the effort to save the pool and start a swimming program for both children and adults. The Minneapolis Park Board listened to Lieder’s proposal to save the pool and gave her two years to raise the $1.5 million to renovate it. As the effort moved forward, the plan for the pool was expanded to include a diving well and shallow teaching pool in addition to an eight-lane competitive pool and the price tag went up.

With a dedicated board and supporters and volunteers from the neighborhood, Lieder headed to the Minnesota legislature in the midst of the recession to request bonding money and surprisingly succeeded in getting state funding. There is still money to be raised but the project is well on its way to success.

Lieder said that the project has led to several beneficial partnerships with others in the neighborhood including Augsburg College and their community initiatives as well as the University of Minnesota aquatics program who hope the Phillips program could be a feeder program to their swim teams.

Lieder is passionate about the impact the pool will have on the neighborhood and the surrounding area. “Swimming is such great exercise. You can do it outside or in, all year round. And swimming doesn’t cause head injuries like some other sports. There is research that shows kids who learn to swim perform better in school. I think teaching kids and their parents from the core of the city to swim is a public health issue and I’m glad the project is getting this attention.”

Lieder said her ethnically diverse neighborhood (more than 100 languages are spoken in the Phillips neighborhood) is a long way from Hudson. “When I first came here it was really hard to see how difficult things were here for kids but I’ve had so many great experiences here and built some great relationships. This pool will be a great asset for a great community.”

Lieder said “This has been an amazing experience — getting involved with my friends and neighbors, with the state legislators, with the people who has supported the effort. I’m proud because it shows that democracy can work for everybody.”

Lieder is the daughter of Merry and Robert “Gus” Wellman of Hudson.

To learn more about the Phillips pool project or to make a donation go to or contact Lieder at (612) 636-7202.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604