When something is going very well, we say that it’s going “swimmingly.” And if a person is involved in or participates in an event or happenings, he or she is known to be in the “swim of things.”
There’s a reason that the act of swimming is so frequently associated with positivity and energy, good health and vibrancy. It’s the third most-popular fitness activity for all ages, and it’s the second fastest-growing sports activity, attracting more than 3 million new participants.
But swimming only succeeds if it is done safely. That’s why the St. Charles Park District has developed a variety of awareness programs and activities designed to reinforce the “Swimming Safe Saves Lives” message. It’s a sad statistic, but drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths for children ages 1 to 14. Teaching children to swim is a vital skill for drowning prevention.
Joining the St. Charles Park District in this water awareness campaign is the Pauly D Foundation, an initiative created by the DelleGrazie family of St. Charles whose 4-year-old son, Pauly, died in 2014 as a result of a drowning accident. It is the foundation’s mission to honor Pauly’s memory by advocating for water safety and drowning prevention.
This year, the Pauly D Foundation is donating $12,000 to offer free swim lessons for 3- and 4-year old children who register for the park district’s Bubble Club Frogs program. Typically run on a four-day – Monday through Thursday – schedule, the 30-minute lesson incorporates a variety of activities, games and songs that encourage children to develop a lifelong enjoyment of the water while mastering essential water safety skills.
“This is the first level of swim lessons where children learn in an environment that’s independent of a parent, which is something we find to be very important,” says Meg Jourden-Messerich, assistant superintendent of recreation. “It’s the perfect age for children to start building their water confidence.”
The generosity of the Pauly D Foundation is augmented by another giving program offered by the park district this year. “The Sharing Wave” is a pay-it-forward funding drive that helps children, who otherwise could not afford to do so, participate in park district recreational and educational programs. Interested individuals, families or groups can make donations during their regular online program registration process or in person any time at either Swanson Pool or Otter Cove Aquatic Park. Local families can qualify for assistance through the St. Charles Park District’s Financial Aid Program.
“The program’s tagline says it all,” says Jourden-Messerich. “We really can help one more child, one donation at a time. Being able to provide recreational experiences for children is a wonderful and awesome opportunity.”
Opportunities abound in June with “Swim Safe” programs and events for all ages and abilities. Free classes in water aerobics, diving and water polo, and activities, such as “Color with a Lifeguard,” “Hula Hoop Contest” and “2 O’clock Conga Lines,” are designed to enhance and expand water safety in an entertaining environment.
But before the aquatic fun begins, swimmers are urged to commit to water awareness through the park district’s “Swim Safe” pledge program, now in its third year. Participants agree to honor the Safe Swimmer pledge which promotes the five basic tenets of water safety awareness: 1) take swimming lessons; 2) read the rules; 3) know the water depth; 4) swim with a buddy; and 5) swim with a lifeguard or adult on duty.
St. Charles Park District safe swimmers can have the chance to be a part of global water safety awareness program by participating in “The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson” from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, June 22, at both Otter Cove and Swanson pools. Local swimmers will join people from around the world to break the Guinness Book of World Record for the most people participating in a swim lesson.
“How often do you get a chance to break a world’s record and learn an important life skill,” says Jourden-Messerich.
For more information about St. Charles Park District’s water awareness programs and activities, contact Meg Jourden-Messerich at 630-513-4390.