Grand Rapids, MI (May 3, 2017) – As the season turns from spring to summer, the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids encourages children and parents to explore the many benefits of swimming, while also keeping safety top of mind. In Y swim programs, participants can enjoy water sports, enhance or learn new techniques, meet new friends and develop confidence, while also learning safety skills that can save lives.

“Educating children how to be safe around water is just as important as teaching them to look both ways before they cross the street,” said Becky Haveman, Association Aquatics & Safety Director, YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. “The Y teaches children of all ages and backgrounds that water should be fun, not feared, and this practice not only saves lives, it builds confidence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of death for children ages one to 14 years old. In low income and minority communities, the youth drowning rates are two to three times higher than the national average, according to a USA Swimming study. Additionally six out of 10 African American and Hispanic/Latino children are unable to swim, nearly twice as many as their White counterparts. As part of the Y’s commitment to reduce drowning rates and keep kids safe in and around water, scholarships for swim instruction and water safety to 600 vulnerable children from school groups in the Greater Grand Rapids area will occur this summer.

The Y is a leader in providing swim lessons and water safety in the Grand Rapids community. Thanks to the David D. Hunting YMCA, Visser Family YMCA, Spartan Store YMCA, Mary Free Bed YMCA, Ionia County YMCA, and Wolverine Worldwide YMCA staff and funding partners, thousands of youth build safety around water skills each year. The Y helps youth and adults experience the joy and benefits of swimming so they can be healthy, confident and secure in the water. A variety of programs at the Y include family swim, swim lessons, and pre-competitive swimming teams.

In addition to learning lifesaving water safety skills, children can increase their physical activity by swimming. Swimming also motivates children to strive for self-improvement, teaches goal orientation and cultivates a positive mental attitude and high self-esteem. It also teaches life lessons of sport and sportsmanship, so that children can learn how to work well with teammates and coaches and how to deal with winning and losing.