Organization providing more than 500 scholarships in underserved communities


Grand Rapids, MI (May 22, 2018) – During National Water Safety Month, the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids is gearing up for summer by providing scholarships for swim instruction and water safety to 550 children from underserved communities in the Greater Grand Rapids area.


Swimming is the most popular recreational activity for children nationwide, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. However, drowning remains the leading cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old and the second leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14. A study conducted in 2011 by USA Swimming found that in ethnically diverse communities, the youth drowning rate is two to three times higher than the national average. Additionally, nearly six out of 10 African American and Hispanic/Latino children are unable to swim, nearly twice as many as their Caucasian counterparts.


“Teaching children to swim and be safe around water is one of the most important life skills parents can offer their children,” said Becky Haveman, association aquatics & safety director for the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. “Educating children on how to be safe around water is just as important as teaching them to look both ways before they cross the street. The Y teaches children of all ages and backgrounds that water should be fun, not feared. This practice not only saves lives, it builds confidence.”


The Y is a leader in providing swim lessons and water safety instruction in the Grand Rapids community. Thanks to funding partners and staff at the David D. Hunting YMCA, Visser Family YMCA, Spartan Store YMCA, Mary Free Bed YMCA, Ionia County YMCA, and Wolverine Worldwide YMCA, thousands of youth build skills and learn water safety 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 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 teaches life lessons of sports and sportsmanship, so that children learn to work well with teammates and coaches and to deal with winning and losing—skills that last a lifetime.


Families interested in learning more about the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids’ swim lessons and water safety classes should visit