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    Tampa Bay to join ‘world’s largest’ swim lesson for kids

    By Sharon Kennedy Wynne,

    29 days ago
    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1cpqQX_0tuuVVFA00
    Te’Onni King, with Edison Elementary School’s Head Start program, practices blowing bubbles while participating in a beginner’s swim lesson on April 25 at Roy Jenkins Pool in Tampa. Four city pools will participate in the World's Largest Swim Lesson on June 20 to bring home the water safety lesson. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

    Four city pools in Tampa will join with thousands of others around the world at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 20, for the World’s Largest Swim Lesson, an event centered around water safety. It has been going on since 2010 in an effort to build awareness about the fundamental importance of teaching children to swim.

    The skill prevents drowning, which is the No. 1 cause of death for American children ages 1-4 — with Florida leading the nation in child drowning deaths.

    The sad statistics were brought home to Matt and Kristen Strojnowski, who had just started working at their Tampa home during the pandemic lockdown in 2020 when Aubrey, their 16-month-old, slipped away. They each thought the other had her, and she opened glass sliding doors they didn’t realize she had figured out how to open. They found her lifeless in the pool at their Lake Magdalene house.

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4YtTKD_0tuuVVFA00
    Swim instructor Shannon Connelly holds A’naiya Wright, with Edison Elementary School’s Head Start program, while teaching Wright how to float during a beginner’s lesson on Thursday, April 25, 2024, at Roy Jenkins Pool in Tampa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

    The family, which has three other children ages 10, 3 and 2, never spent another night in that house while they wrestled with the grief. They soon channeled that into the foundation Smile Like Aubrey, which celebrates the vivacious toddler’s life but also raises awareness of the dire need for swim lessons and funds scholarships to help families get them.

    “Until this happened, we had no idea drowning was the leading cause of death for children, and we want to do our best to prevent this tragedy from happening to another family,” said Kristen Strojnowski.

    With her newfound knowledge, Kristen took her 6-month-old to the pool to learn how to flip over and float on his back, in case he ever falls in the water. At 1-year-old, a child can not only float, but learn to paddle over to the side to grab the wall. And by 2, they can swim confidently, she said. But the Tampa nurse also makes sure her kids get twice-a-year “booster” lessons in swimming to make sure they haven’t forgotten the previous lessons.

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2JvHSk_0tuuVVFA00
    Children with Edison Elementary School’s Head Start program warm up with a kicking exercise while participating in a beginner’s swim lesson at Roy Jenkins Pool in Tampa. Florida leads the nation in child drowning deaths, and Hillsborough County is No. 1 in the state. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

    Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows the risk of drowning can be reduced by 88% if children participate in formal swimming lessons between the ages of 1-4. Yet a survey conducted by the American Red Cross in 2020 found that more than half of Americans (56%) either can’t swim or don’t have the necessary basic swimming skills.

    For the 15th iteration of the World’s Largest Swim Lesson, there will be a free session starting at 10 a.m. at four Tampa pools: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Copeland, Cyrus Greene and Loretta Ingraham. Nine St. Petersburg pools will also be participating, including Lake Vista, Childs Park and the North Shore Aquatic Complex. No registration is required. Walk-ups are welcome and there will be giveaways, information on lessons and water safety tips provided after.

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1KNk1o_0tuuVVFA00

    Swim lessons at Tampa city pools cost $24 for eight lessons, or $3 per lesson. They also offer private lessons at $12.50 per half hour. The Smile Like Aubrey foundation offers swim scholarships. Fill out the form at smilelikeaubrey.org/swim-scholarships.

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=47LQdy_0tuuVVFA00
    Zariah Slaughter, with Edison Elementary School’s Head Start program, practices blowing bubbles while participating in a beginner’s swim lesson on April 25 at Roy Jenkins Pool in Tampa. Research has shown drowning can be prevented by 88% with formal swim lessons. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

    The World’s Largest Swim Lesson has been held in 53 countries on six continents since the event launched in 2010. With Hillsborough County leading the state in childhood drownings, Mayor Jane Castor said the swim lesson message is vital.

    “As a former police officer, I’ve seen the devastating impact of drownings, especially among children,” Castor said. “I believe providing swim lessons to our community is absolutely crucial. By giving people the knowledge and confidence to navigate water safely, we’re not just teaching a skill, we’re saving lives.”

    Kristen’s advice to new parents is to think about how “layers of protection are very important if one of them fails.”

    Get them in swim lessons as soon as possible, have a pool fence and alarms on both the front and back doors. Learn CPR and always have some eyes on the kids, but know that people get distracted by phone calls or other elements, so that’s why having multiple barriers is vital, she said.

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4Q9H0m_0tuuVVFA00
    Swim instructor Shannon Connelly reaches to catch Frederick Brown, with Edison Elementary School’s Head Start program, as he leaps into the water during a beginner’s lesson on April 25 at Roy Jenkins Pool in Tampa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

    If you go to the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson

    No advance registration required. Takes place 10-10:30 a.m. Thursday, June 20, at four Tampa pools:

    • Copeland Pool, 11001 N. 15th St. (media will be present)
    • Loretta Ingraham Pool, 1611 N. Hubert Ave.
    • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Pool, 2200 N, Oregon Ave.
    • Cyrus Greene Pool, 2101 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

    For information on swim lessons, go to tampa.gov/learn-to-swim or in St. Petersburg see stpeteparksrec.org/swimlessons. The nonprofit Smile Like Aubrey offers swim scholarships. Fill out the form at smilelikeaubrey.org/swim-scholarships.

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