Red Cross offers free inner-city youth swim programs

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Now that summer is in full swing, the American Red Cross Northeastern New York is once again offering its Learn-to-Swim program to educate urban youth about safe practices in and around the water. For years, the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York (ARCNENY) has been striving to increase water-safety education for children. Studies show that drowning is one of the leading and most preventable causes of accidental death among children, it is essential that they are informed and properly trained before entering any body of water.

One reason for the reluctance of some youth to participate in water safety classes may be the cost, making swimming more difficult and less of a priority within underprivileged communities. To help combat this challenge, ARCNENY, volunteers, and community supporters have sponsored the Learn-to-Swim programs in the Capital Region for more than 40 years. Learn-to-Swim programs are free of charge, and all young swimmers in the cities of Albany and Schenectady are welcome. This year’s program is jointly sponsored by three grants: the Frederick McDonald Trust, the Standish Family Fund and the WGY/Clear Channel/Curtis Lumber Christmas Wish Fund.

Improved swimming skills and knowledge of water safety provides children with invaluable, life-long tools to help them enjoy water sports and activities as well as their physical health safely and confidently.

“We often hear from lifeguards at the city pools that once the kids have taken the Learn-to-Swim program, they are safer around the water, show more respect for the pools and rules, and demonstrate their improved abilities and skills while swimming,” said Donald Geurtze, American Red Cross Eastern Territory Aquatics Specialist.

During Learn-to Swim, ten swimming lessons are taught over a two week period for children (ages 3-12 in Albany and 6-12 in Schenectady) by experienced American Red Cross Water Safety Instructors. Lessons are tailored to meet the needs of each child, whether it is his/her first time in a pool, or their fundamental water skills need further development.

2012’s Learn-to-Swim program is held at two locations in the Capital Region during the month of July. Lincoln Park Pool in Albany sponsors the program from July 2nd through July 6th and July 9th through July 13th from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. or 11:00 – 12:00 p.m. Swimmers can also choose to enroll at the Front Street Pool (managed by the local YWCA) in Schenectady from July 16th through July 20th and July 23rd through July 27th from 10:00 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. – 11:45 p.m. Young swimmers of all ages are encouraged to attend and can enroll right before his/her first lesson. The City of Albany provides buses to transport swimmers to the program, and all training equipment and materials will be provided by ARCNENY.

With the support of countless volunteers, the community, and staff, ARCNENY anticipates successful completion of the Learn-to-Swim program by more than 300 children this summer. The American Red Cross in encouraged by knowing that each year, more children are learning the benefits of water safety and using them to have more fun in the water. The Red Cross has developed a number of programs to make water safety a priority, prevent accidental death around water, and ensure that swimmers know what to do during a swimming emergency. Swimming is an important part of summer fun, and water safety should begin at an early age.

For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or call 458-8111.