The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA is offering its annual Safety Around Water program to help children reduce the risk of drowning, and give them confidence in and around water.
This free program has been offered to children ages three to 12 since 2014 and has continued to grow. The Tampa YMCA provided the program to 783 children in their March session — pre-COVID closures — and currently has 499 participants enrolled in their August session that takes place August 3 to August 6.
“The Safety Around Water program is a great option for families to enroll their non-swimmers or beginner swimmers in a program that will focus directly on life-saving skills,” said Amanda Walker, the aquatics executive for the Tampa YMCA. “During our four-day program, participants will learn key skills, including submerging, back float, ‘swim-float-swim,’ and ‘jump-turn-and-grab.’ Each of these skills are essential to helping a swimmer if they were to find themselves in water where they were unable to touch the ground.”
According to Walker, skills such as back floating teach a swimmer to roll onto their back with their face out of water until help is available. For the more advanced swimmers, the swim-float-swim skill teaches swimmers to swim toward safety, roll over onto their back to rest when needed, and then roll back to their stomach to continue swimming toward safety.
If your facility is considering adding a water safety program, Walker recommends surveying or working closely with families in your community to determine the best way to deliver the program. For example, the Tampa YMCA offers a shortened four-day program since their families prefer the commitment to classes to not extend over multiple weeks.
Additionally, Walker recommends partnering with a program that will help accomplish the skills needed in their community. She explained there are a lot of different water safety programs available, and finding one that matches your goals as an organization is important.
“If an organization has interest in offering the program free to families in the community, then beginning the search for a partner — or partners — that may be willing to help support the cost would be beneficial,” said Walker. “These relationships can take time to foster, so starting early is essential.”
The YMCAs of the Tampa Bay have partnered with the Florida Blue Foundation to offer the Safety Around Water program, at no cost to families, at nearly 30 locations across Tampa Bay. The collaborative effort includes the Tampa YMCA, YMCA of the Suncoast, YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg, Manatee Family YMCA and SKY Family YMCA. In 2019, this partnership taught nearly 8,000 kids water safety lessons.
You can find more information on the program here.