Instructor swimming with child

Free Swim Lessons, For Safety's Sake

County partners bring water-safety instruction to a pool near you

Summertime fun quickly can turn to tragedy with the potentially lethal combination of swimming pools and unattended young children.

Drowning is the leading cause of preventable deaths among Tampa Bay area girls and boys ages 1-5.

Protect children from potential danger by ensuring they don't roam near the water's edge without supervision, and by arranging swimming lessons at an early age with a qualified instructor.

The Children's Board of Hillsborough County can help.

This is the fourth summer the Children's Board and its partners, including Hillsborough County government, have offered a free mobile water safety program. Here's how it works: Certified instructors go to pools at community centers, apartment complexes, and elsewhere to give free lessons in basic water safety/swimming skills. Children ages 3-14 are eligible.

Up to 24 children may participate in each one-week session. Classes are offered Monday through Friday, with each one lasting 45 minutes.

Statistics show it's worth the effort. With proper instruction, the likelihood of a child drowning drops as much as 88 percent.

The Children's Board contracts with Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA and Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center to run the program.

The YMCA's Amanda Walker oversees Mobile Swim Lesson training. The goal, she says, is to eliminate barriers that can prevent parents from getting their kids into water safety or swim classes, challenges such as transportation issues, a hectic work schedule, and other deterrents.

High participation numbers indicate that sending instructors to the places where people live is working.

Twenty-five sites are scheduled to host classes this summer. Additional inquiries for site locations go on a waiting list. Contact Chris Alaynick, director of Mobile Swim, at (813) 224-9622, extension 1292, to find out more about the Mobile Swim Lesson program. 

Photo caption: Mobile Swim Lesson training is scheduled at 25 locations.