No child
should fear
the water

70% of African American and 60% of Hispanic children cannot swim, putting our children at an unacceptable risk of drowning.

We can teach a child to swim in a matter of weeks.

Detroit Swims’ goal is to teach 1,500 children to swim each year that would not otherwise have the opportunity due to finances, pool access, or transportation. We partner with schools and community pools in the City of Detroit and surrounding areas to ensure that every child can be confident in and around the water.

Interested in helping Detroit Swims make a difference? Become a volunteer or donate now.

From 2010 to right now, we’ve taught 5,800 children to swim and be safe around water.

Stay up-to-date with everything Detroit Swims at our Facebook page.

About Detroit Swims

Each site running Swims is a little different, depending on the needs of the school and the available pool time. We offer a range of classes to meet swimmers’ needs, including:

  • P.E. classes during school
    Collaborating with P.E. teachers, offering Detroit Swims curriculum, or assisting with school’s established curriculum.
  • Learn to swim classes after school
    Providing swim lessons and water safety education to children from the host school, or a neighboring school (transportation provided if necessary), or the general community after school hours.
  • Novice swim teams
    Creating a swim team environment for Detroit Swims graduates or other intermediate swimmers after school. Competition is set up quarterly at the YMCA.
  • High school swim team lessons
    Helping the school swim coach teach the students that sign up for swim team, but aren’t ready to skill wise to complete regular practices or compete. Y staff teaches beginner swimmers, while the coach focuses on intermediate to advanced swimmers.
  • High school lifeguard and swim instructor training
    Offering high school swimmers the opportunity to take lifeguard and swim instructor training after the swim season ends in the spring. Upon completion of the program, students volunteer for 8-10 hours and then can be employed with the YMCA.
  • Special education / autism spectrum disorder classes
    Preschool to middle school students are brought to the YMCA during the school day once a week to swim one on one with an instructor. School staff work with Y instructors to create a student specific plan that includes learning to swim, water safety education, and elements of speech and physical therapy. Each child receives a life jacket to keep at the conclusion of the lessons to encourage future water safe enjoyment.
  • Swim lessons and adult safety education at apartment complexes
    Apartment complexes with pools on site host YMCA instructors that teach children swim lessons, while simultaneously teaching adults water safety concepts and skills such as water rescue techniques, CPR and first aid, proper supervision, and more.
  • Special events for all Detroit Swims participants
    Annually we offer a variety of special events such as swim clinics with celebrity swimmers, travel to collegiate level swimming events, YMCA pool party days, beach parties, novice swim team competitions, community events and more. Detroit Swims participants and graduates are invited via fliers sent home, and sometimes transportation is provided.
  • YMCA scholarships to continue swimming
    Detroit Swims graduates are encouraged to continue swimming after the session of Detroit Swims is over by offering reduced rate memberships and full scholarships to programs happening at the YMCA.
image of cute kids

Detroit Swims History

Started by lifeguards at the Boll Family YMCA in 2010, Detroit Swims was created to address the alarming fact that 7 out of 10 children in Detroit cannot swim.

The first season of Detroit Swims was funded entirely by the part-time lifeguards and swim instructors at the Boll Family YMCA, who collectively gave $2,000 out of their own paychecks to teach the first 35 kids how to swim. The lesson plans were created with their input, and the first pool site was secured because one of the lifeguards still kept in touch with their former high school principal. The staff is emotionally invested in this program, and that shines through in the care and dedication the team demonstrates in the pool.

Since the program’s inception, we have taught 5,800 kids to swim. We’ve formed a strong volunteer committee that helps us raise awareness, and we continue to raise funds to support more enrollment. We are breaking down barriers that prevent kids from learning to swim so that every child, regardless of their background, can be safe around water. And we aren’t stopping until every child in Metro Detroit can swim.

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Current Swims Locations

The main Detroit Swims program is operated out of the Boll Family YMCA, but other YMCAs in the Metro Detroit area have adapted the program to serve the needs of their communities as well.

Boll Family YMCA

1401 Broadway
Detroit, MI 48226
Phone: 313 309 9622
Focus: low income, special needs / ASD

Birmingham Family YMCA

400 E. Lincoln Street
Birmingham, MI 48009
Phone: 248 644 9036
Focus: special needs

Downriver Family YMCA

16777 Northline Road
Southgate, MI 48195
Phone: 734 282 9622
Focus: low income, special needs / ASD

Livonia Family YMCA

14255 Stark Road
Livonia, MI 48154
Phone: 734 261 2161
Focus: low income

Macomb Family YMCA

10 North River Road
Mount Clemens, MI 48043
Phone: 586 468 1411
Focus: low income

South Oakland Family YMCA

1016 W. 11 Mile Road
Royal Oak, MI 48067
Phone: 248 547 0030
Focus: low income, apartment complexes

Interested in bringing Detroit Swims to your pool? Contact us for details.

Volunteers are an essential part of Detroit Swims

You can make a tangible difference in the safety and well-being of Detroit’s children by volunteering with Detroit Swims—in the water, or out of the water! Volunteers help us to serve more children with every dollar that we raise. Simply put, our organization wouldn’t exist without the passion and dedication of our volunteers.

As a volunteer you can help a few times a week, or just a few times a year in the following ways:

  • Lifeguarding
  • Teaching or co-teaching with staff
  • Being an on-deck helper at a Swims site
  • Driving the bus (Class B certification)
  • Fundraising and marketing as part of our Detroit Swims Committee
  • Host a session of Detroit Swims at a pool in your area
  • Group volunteering opportunities can be arranged; we have many pools and locker rooms that need a makeover!

To join our team as a volunteer, follow these steps:

  1. Fill out our volunteer application and return to Ashleigh Rodriguez-Bertz via email,, or mail to Boll Family YMCA, Attn: Detroit Swims, 1401 Broadway, Detroit MI 48226

Volunteer opportunities for swim teams and students

Swimming means a lot to you, your kids, and your family. Spread the love of swimming and make a difference in the safety and well-being of children by becoming a Detroit Swims volunteer. There are volunteer opportunities both in and out of the pool for swimmers 13 and older and their parents.

Swimmers 13 and older and their parents can help:

  • In or out of the water at a Detroit Swims site
  • Arrange a group clean up and make-over of a Detroit Swims pool
  • Become a pen pal with a Detroit Swims graduate who recently joined a swim team
  • Collect swim suits and donated gear from your friends and family, or at your business
  • Host a session of Detroit Swims at your school or club pool, we’ll bring the kids!
  • Fundraise for Detroit Swims with pool parties, bake sales, swim-a-thons, raffles at events, swim clinics, or selling Detroit Swims t-shirts.
February 22, 2018
  • Henry Ford Academy Elementary School

    Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

    Location: Boll Family YMCA, 1401 Broadway St, Detroit, MI 48226, USA

February 23, 2018
  • Center for Success

    Time: 3:45 pm - 4:30 pm

    Location: Boll Family YMCA, 1401 Broadway St, Detroit, MI 48226, USA

February 27, 2018
  • Burton International Academy

    Time: 9:30 am - 12:00 pm

    Location: Burton International School, 2001 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Detroit, MI 48208, USA

  • Henry Ford Academy Elementary School

    Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

    Location: Boll Family YMCA, 1401 Broadway St, Detroit, MI 48226, USA

  • David Ellis Academy - Session 1 Group 1

    Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

    Location: South Oakland Family YMCA, 1016 W Eleven Mile Rd, Royal Oak, MI 48067, USA

Thanks to our Supporters

The Detroit Swims Volunteer Committee is a group of 8 dedicated volunteers from the swimming and local Detroit community that assist with fundraising, donations, marketing, and more.

image of detroit swims supporters

Four time Olympic medalist Peter Vanderkaay supports Detroit Swims as a volunteer, encouraging local swim teams to give back to support the sport of swimming.

image of detroit swims supporters

Left to right: volunteer Kevin Morin, staff Elena Crowley, staff Michael Hamlett Jr., volunteer Diane Rock, volunteer Tom Scallen, volunteer Robin Vanderkaay, volunteer Peter Vanderkaay, staff Nikole Constas, volunteer David Allen, volunteer Fares Ksebati. Not pictured: volunteer Watty Bernard and volunteer Rick Moreno.