Plantation, Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - Just one year after receiving a $500,000 grant for drowning prevention from the Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation, the American Red Cross and its community partners in Broward County have provided life-saving swimming lessons to more than 1,000 at-risk children.
The initiative, named Big Splash 1, 2, 3, was launched in May 2012 to address the high drowning rate in Broward County. According to the Florida Department of Health, the drowning rate in Florida for children under five is the highest in the nation- more than 7.5 per 100,000.
More children die of drowning in Broward County than in any other county in Florida. Drowning is the number one cause of death among children four and under in Broward County and the second largest cause of accidental death among children of all ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“An important goal of the Big Splash 1,2,3 initiative is for children to learn foundational swimming concepts, water safety and survival skills in a safe and fun environment,” said Sam Tidwell, CEO, American Red Cross South Florida Region. “We hope that this program will help significantly reduce the number of children drowning in Broward County.”
Thanks to a generous grant from the Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation, the Red Cross and its partners will be able to continue providing swimming lessons to 2000 additional students ages 9 and under over the next two years. The program also includes adult education courses on how to supervise children in and near the water, ensure their safety and what to do in case of an accident.
Program partners include the cities of Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Lauderhill and Pompano, the Boys & Girls Club of Broward County and the YMCAs of Broward County.
“The most rewarding part of this program has been to be able to provide swimming lessons to disadvantaged children who otherwise would not had had the opportunity to take these classes either because the lack of finances or the lack of pools in their communities,” said Lee Pitts, senior aquatics director at the Boys & Girls Club of Broward County Swim Academy.
Pitts said the program has been extremely successful at the swim academy, where every summer there are thousands of children eager to get into the water.
“The biggest challenge has been to have so many kinds that want to participate in the program that we cannot accommodate them all,” added Pitts. “But that is a good challenge to have.”
For information on how to enroll your child in swimming lessons, please contact one of our Big Splash 1,2,3, partners listed below:
City of Deerfield Beach - 501 SE 6th Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441 (954) 420-2262
City of Ft. Lauderdale - 501 Seabreeze Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316 (954) 828-7275
City of Hollywood - 3000 N 69th Ave., Hollywood, FL 33024 (954) 967-4644
City of Lauderhill
City of Pompano - 901 NW 10th St., Pompano Beach, FL (954) 786-4116
Boys and Girls Club
YMCAs of Broward County - 900 SE 3rd Ave., Ft Lauderdale, FL 33316 (954) 334-9622
Photo Caption: Lee Pitts, far left, Senior Aquatics Director at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County Swim Academy, works with students from the Splash, 1,2,3 program.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.