Copyright 2014 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Palm Beach Post (Florida)
In the city of Boynton Beach, away from the strip malls and the fancy restaurants, is the John Denson Pool, where eager children who live nearby are hoping to swim this summer.
But unfortunately, some of these boys and girls can't even afford the dollar it takes to earn them entrance through the pool gate.
This is why the recent $5,000 Make A Splash grant given to the city's recreation and parks department by way of the USA Swimming Foundation is so important. The money will cover the cost of beginner swim lessons at the pool at Wilson Park, where kids whose families couldn't normally afford to pay for the lessons will have a chance to learn how to swim.
Pool supervisor Kari Yerg decided to apply for the grant because she believes every child needs to know how to swim. Not just because it's fun, she said, but because swimming can save lives.
Florida loses more children younger than 5 to drowning than any other state. According to www.floridahealth.gov, the number of children who die from accidental drownings each year could fill four preschool classrooms. Yerg doesn't want these kids to be part of that statistic.
"Swimming is a lifesaving skill, so I wanted to give the opportunity to people who may not necessarily have the extra money to pay for lessons," she said.
The pool sits among neighborhoods where families struggle to afford even the bare necessities. It's common for children from these homes to spend hours hunting for loose change so they can find a dollar worth of coins to get inside pool property.
"You'd be surprised how much coinage we get from the kids," Yerg said.
Recreation and Parks Director Wally Majors said this is the first year the city has applied for the grant, which was also awarded to 56 other cities throughout the country. He's proud Boynton Beach was one of the recipients, noting that the community the pool serves is mostly African American and that African Americans are two times more likely to drown then other ethnic groups.
"The opportunities for African Americans to swim ... were very limited. It's an ugly part of our American history and it's a sad reality," Majors said. "We are proud of the fact that not only are we able to provide this opportunity, but several of our lifeguards are African Americans."
Swim lessons for beginners usually cost $40 and last for one week. Because the city wants to give as many children as possible the opportunity to learn how to swim, the grant (it's enough to pay for 117 swim lessons) will pay for only one-week lessons for each child. But sometimes, Yerg said, that's enough to lure parents to pay for more.
"Sometimes the parents see the importance of it and they find the means to pay for more," she said, noting that even if they don't, it is possible for a child to learn how to keep from drowning in just a week's worth of classes.
The 45-minute classes are held at 9, 9:45 and 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and at 10:30 and 11:15 a.m. on Saturdays. Online registration is available at www.boynton-beach.org or can be made by calling 561- 742-6645 or in person at the Intracoastal Park Clubhouse at 2240 N. Federal Highway.
In the meantime, for parents whose children do not know how to swim, www.floridahealth.gov has these suggestions: Make sure there is adult supervision whenever your child enters a pool and if an adult can't enter the pool, be sure there is a barrier to physically block the child from the pool. It is also important to learn CPR because it could mean the difference between life and death.