YMCA bolsters swim lesson program to reduce drownings

Swimmers in action at the Maryvale Family YMCA in Phoenix on May 23, 2017.

The YMCA is stepping up efforts to provide swimming lessons in the Phoenix area to minimize drowning calls.

Valley of the Sun YMCA leaders discussed efforts to prevent drowning and educate the community about water safety at a news conference on Tuesday.

“We know that formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning,” said Jackie Morgan, executive director of leadership development and risk management for Valley of the Sun YMCA.

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May is National Water Safety Month and the YMCA is launching a new program designed to involve parents and children more in what is taught.

“We recommitted ourselves this year with the launch of our new swim lesson program…to ​​reach 35,000 children and adults this year in our water safety program alone,” said Katie Smetana, Vice President of Operations for Valley of the Sun. YMCA. “So this is the first time we’ve done a huge shoutout like that.”

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The YMCA uses community funds to help offset program costs and make lessons more affordable and help those who may not be able to afford the fees. She said the YMCA “would never turn anyone away for their inability to pay.”

Maria Ayala, mother of a 9-month-old boy, has lived her entire life in Arizona. She plans to enroll her son in swimming lessons when he turns 1 in August.

“I think it will help him in the future,” Ayala said. “He won’t drown, and if someone else is drowning, he’ll know what to do and help others.”

Water Safety Tips

Smetana offered some tips for basic water safety:

  • Have a designated adult always watch the water. This includes being sober.
  • Make sure there is a barrier around your pool, or call a lifeguard at any type of public pool, or come to the YMCA, where our pools are always supervised.
  • Arm your kids with swimming lessons, teach them how to be safe around water and how to build confidence.

For more information, visit the Valley of the Sun YMCA online at valleyymca.org or call 602-404-9622.