The YMCA’s Detroit SWIMS program goal is to raise more than $100,000 annually to ensure Detroit’s 120,000 young residents eventually will receive YMCA swim lessons before the 5th grade.
The pilot, started by YMCA life guards, focuses on early swim instruction techniques that allow a child to become proficient in swim strokes and water safety within only an 8 lesson program. The swim program takes children from a “fear of water,” to early safety skills, to basic swim strokes, to accomplished swimmers in a manner of weeks.
Saffle, Senior Program Director at the YMCA, shared it takes only $65 to teach every child to swim and the YMCA currently uses area school swimming pools as well at the Boll Family YMCA pool.
Most of Detroit’s children have very limited access to swimming pools and instruction, and yet we are a state virtually surrounded by water,” said Saffle. “Our lifeguards actually helped create this program and they offered the very first donations to make it happen.”
Children living in urban areas, especially African-American children, drown at a rate almost three times that of other children according to the YMCA. In a state like Michigan with three great lakes, countless ponds, rivers and in-land lakes, the risk is even greater.
The goal of the YMCA’s Detroit SWIMS Program is to raise $100,000 annually to fund 1,500 children each year going forward.
The YMCA roots in swimming go back to 1910, when the Detroit Y’s George Corsan invented the first mass swimming lessons in the world at the old Downtown Detroit YMCA. Corsan then toured North America teaching his techniques to YMCAs across the U.S. and Canada.
“We are taking Corsan’s same techniques and ensuring we have a city of swimmers,” said Tom Constand, chair of the Boll Family YMCA Board. “If we can teach all our youth to be safe, create a city of swimmers and lifeguards for just $65 per child, I can’t think of a more effective investment.”
In addition to financial donations to support the program, the YMCA is also accepting donation of new or lightly used swim suits and goggles as well. Club Wolverine Swim Team, headquartered in Ann Arbor, will be bringing used suits collected over this past summer.