This post was written by Connie Harvey, Director, Aquatics Centennial Initiatives.
As a water safety instructor, nothing makes my day more than seeing a child who used to be afraid of the water have the confidence to dive into the deep end and swim to the other side.
That’s why I jumped at the chance to lead the Red Cross Centennial Campaign, a 5-year effort to reduce the drowning rates in 50 selected communities across the nation where the rate exceeds the national average.
On Memorial Day weekend, we kicked off this campaign to celebrate 100 years of Red Cross involvement in swimming and water safety. And in that short time, we’ve enrolled thousands of people – mostly children – in Learn-to-Swim classes in the initial markets: Brevard County (Florida); Orlando (Florida); Myrtle Beach (South Carolina); Los Angeles (California); New Orleans (Louisiana) and Birmingham (Alabama).
That’s thousands of people who normally would not have the opportunity to learn this important, lifesaving skill – as well as their parents, who are getting educated about general water safety and how to respond to a water emergency. All of this important work is being done through special programs and scholarships offered jointly by the Red Cross and our licensed training providers, such as local Parks and Recreation departments and YMCAs.
Summer might be over in some parts of the country, but for these new swimmers – and for the next 40 cities who will be part of the Centennial campaign in the coming months and years – the adventure is just beginning.
“The kids seem more excited about learning to swim now – seeing how they can get out of life jackets when they come to play at the pool as part of camp. The staff is definitely getting closer to the kids. It’s more personal. This year I know all the kids by name.”
– Amber Kazimor (Brevard County Parks and Recreation, FL)
“It would break my heart to see these kids come in as part of a camp and be scared to death in 3 feet of water. Now they come in and truly want to be in the water.”
– Kaitlyn Earnest, Instructor (Myrtle Beach, SC)
“This is the fourth week of lessons, my child started out being afraid of the water and now she’s more comfortable, which will help her to learn to swim. This helps us work towards being safe when we go to other pools or the waterpark. It’s nice to have lessons so close to home. In the future I’d like my whole family to learn to swim.”
– Magaly Sabino, Parent (Myrtle Beach, SC)
“I like it because I want to swim in the deep end.”
– Raymond McCoy, new swimmer (Brevard County Parks and Recreation, FL)