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How your organization can educate your community and provide water safety for children.

As the temperatures begin to rise and spring turns into summer, facilities see an influx of families flocking to their pools. However, with drownings being a leading cause of injury/death for young children ages one to 14 — three children die every day as a result of drowning according to the CDC — it’s vital facilities stress the importance of water safety. 

“At the Y, we believe a child’s safety in and around water should never be left to chance,” said Ame Guy, the association director of aquatics for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina. “In 2015 the Y began a program called Safety Around Water. We bring free water safety classes to Mecklenburg County — where we are based — and surrounding counties with the hope to change these statistics.”

Taking part in formal water safety classes helps reduce the risk of drowning among children. Research finds two primary factors for children not learning to swim: the parent’s ability and attitude toward swimming, and the socio-economic conditions of the child’s community. 

With the support of their neighbors, the Charlotte Y is determined to prevent childhood drowning in their community. According to Guy, the Y’s on-site water safety program engages low-income youth living in local apartment communities where pools are often without lifeguards. The eight-session course, taught by certified YMCA swim instructors and lifeguards, teaches children basic water safety and swimming skills that reduce their risk of drowning and give them confidence in and around the water. 

“We are able to run this program with grant funding, individual donations and community partnerships,” explained Guy. “That allows us to serve over a thousand kids around Mecklenburg County. In addition to our outreach in apartment communities through the summer months, we have an amazing partnership with the school system in Lincoln County. Through our Sally’s and Lincoln County YMCAs, we are able to teach every second grader in Lincoln County water safety lessons during the school year at our YMCAs.”

Foothills Park and Recreation District in Jefferson County, Colorado, is also doing their part to increase safety around water. In their swim lesson program, they have a water safety day. Participants learn a plethora of things like how to properly wear a life jacket, don’t jump in for your friend if you don’t know how to swim, and more.

In fact, swim lessons are one of the most popular programs at Foothills Park and Rec. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, they had to adjust the number of classes offered and made a lot of modifications for COVID-19. One of those modifications is no longer having the instructor in the water with the student but a parent or guardian with them instead. 

“We’ve actually seen the students progress at a far more significant rate, because they’re getting 100% practice time,” said Bryan Reno, the aquatics supervisor at Foothills Parks and Rec. “If it was like the traditional old way of a group swim lesson where the instructor is with five kids; the reality is in a 30-minute time period it’s like seven minutes of work per kid. But if a parent is in the water in a 30-minute lesson you’re getting 30 minutes of activity in practice. So, we’ve actually seen a lot more progress with kids learning how to swim.”

In order to teach members in your community how to swim and water safety tips, they must first know you are offering these types of services. That is why it is vital to properly market your programs. For the Charlotte Y, the best means of marketing is through quality and progressive programming.  

“We know word of mouth and a positive experience with our participants is what brings consistency in current registrations as well as increased registrations from personal referrals,” said Guy. “By providing quality staff, a wide variety of class offerings and comparable prices with financial assistance if needed, we are able to drive participants to our programs. We also utilize our social media outlets, onsite marketing efforts with banners, yard signs and ads on the facility televisions, as well as email blasts to past participants.”

Through proper marketing and educational programs, your facility can do your part to help reduce the risk of drowning among children, and keep your community healthy and safe. 

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor of Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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