As part of the Y’s commitment to reduce drowning rates and keep kids safe in and around the water, the Riverbrook Regional YMCA has received funding to provide scholarships for swim instruction and water safety to children from underserved communities in Norwalk though the Y’s SWIM ACCESS program.

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 ethnically diverse communities, the youth drowning rate is two to three times higher than the national average, according to a USA Swimming study. Additionally nearly six out of 10 African American and Hispanic/Latino children are unable to swim, nearly twice as many as their Caucasian counterparts.

“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 Bob McDowell, chief executive director, Riverbrook Regional YMCA. “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.”

Since the closing of the Norwalk YMCA building in December 2012, access to swimming facilities and lessons has been severely curtailed for the Norwalk community, leaving families in Norwalk with no access to swim instruction for their children. SWIM ACCESS was launched last summer to provide swim lesson scholarships for Norwalk children aged 5-13 years old from vulnerable and low-income households who are at risk and lack recreational outlets that ensure their swimming competency and water safety. Goals of the program are to provide access to pools, teach basic swimming skills, reduce youth drowning through water safety instruction, and educate parents. This year alone, the Y is supporting over 600 children in the SWIM ACCESS program.

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—skills that last a lifetime.

Pictured above, YMCA lifeguard Joanna Korsch, left, teaches a child how to float in water during a swimming safety session at the pool of the Wilton Family YMCA branch.

Serving Norwalk, Georgetown, Redding and Wilton, the Riverbrook Regional YMCA provides services to 134,000 residents across diverse communities. The YMCA is a member-supported charitable organization dedicated to promoting youth development, healthy living and social responsibility by offering a broad range of health enhancing, recreational, educational and social programs that are affordable and accessible to all people in the communities we serve. Our vision is to use all available resources to maximize the personal potential of every person in the community