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When as many as 80 children ages 3 to 14 take a dip in the cool waters at YMCA pool in Stuart at 11 a.m. Friday to learn swimming techniques, they will know they aren't alone. The children, their instructors as well as another group at Sailfish Splash Water Park across town will be part of the World's Largest Swimming Lesson.
The 30-minute lesson is expected to surpass last year's world record of 32,450 swimmers at 432 facilities in 13 different countries all learning to swim at one time. So far, there are more than 800 locations in 26 countries signed up to participate with an estimated 50,000 participants.
If the event breaks the record, it will be the fifth record set by the World's Largest Swimming Lesson, a nonprofit organization aimed at raising awareness of the importance of swimming lessons.
"The number one goal of the program is to build awareness of the vital importance of teaching kids to swim," said WLSWL spokesperson Beth Root.
It's the first time that the YMCA on Monterey Road has joined the worldwide event, and pre-registration is required as space is limited.
"This is something that we've heard of other facilities doing," said Megan Voeller, the YMCA's aquatics director. "It's so cool the kids are able to participate in (the event), and it's a great opportunity."
There are two looming statistics that Voeller said people need to grasp. First, she said that unintentional drowning killed more than 1,000 children in the U.S. in 2010, and second, more children ages 1 to 4 will die of drowning this year more than any other cause except for birth defects.
The World's Largest Swimming Lesson is an organization established to set world records in order to raise awareness. The nonprofit set the first record in 2010 and has continued to do so each year. This year, the lesson needs to surpass 32,450, which was the record set in 2013. The year before, 24,873 people participated.
It's the third year that Sailfish Splash Waterpark has been a host location, and park spokesperson Craig Anderson said that the hope is to have 60 swimmers, which would break last year's record of 45.
To participate, children ages 6 months old to "tweens" must be signed up in advance.
Check-in starts at 10 a.m., and the lesson starts promptly at 11 a.m. The park is working with Pat Toner's H2O Kids Zone Swim School as well as radio stations Breeze 93.7 and Hot Country 94.7.
The YMCA of the Treasure Coast's Stuart location taught swimming to about 1,600 kids in 2013, and Voeller hopes that this large swimming lesson event will raise even more awareness. She expects that only about 50 students will participate in the event, but she said they could hold up to 80 kids.
The hope is that this will help raise the need for children ages 1 to 4 to learn how to swim.
"We are targeting that group" because of the risk for children in that age range, Voeller said.
The swim lesson is set to start at 11 a.m.. Voeller expects that the entire event will last from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Participants will receive a certificate showing their involvement.
A range of places are participating throughout Florida, including water parks, pools and other aquatic facilities. The closest participant beyond Martin County is Rapids Water Park in Riviera Beach.
For more information on the event, visit www.worldslargestswimminglesson.org.
IF YOU GO:
What: The World's Largest Swimming Lesson
When: 11 a.m. Friday
Where: YMCA of the Treasure Coast, 1700 S.E. Monterey Road, Stuart; Sailfish Splash Water Park, 931 S.E. Ruhnke St., Stuart.
Contact: YMCA, 772-286-4444; Sailfish Splash Water Park, 772-419-4096
Website: YMCA, www.ymcatreasurecoast.org; Sailfish Splash, sailfishsplash.com