BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Reports of accidental drowning deaths already have begun with the start of the summer season, including at least four victims under age 4 in Central Florida. And last week, Randall Clay Hood, the 26-year-old son of State Rep. Dave Hood, former mayor of Ormond Beach, died in a drowning accident.
In an effort to prevent accidents and deaths this summer at area beaches and pools, the City of Daytona Beach is offering swimming courses at the Cypress Aquatic Center on George Engram Boulevard.
“As the leading cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old, drowning prevention, education and awareness are critically important,” says Stefany Strong, Florida Department of Health in Volusia County spokesperson.
Many times there is a generational effect. A person’s mother doesn’t know how to swim, and that person’s mother didn’t know how to swim. A mom or dad can’t swim and their children don’t learn either.
“We’ve seen that more people are saying ‘Even if I don’t know how to swim, I’m going to make sure my child does.’”
Classes for all ages
“The key to swimming is being flat,” said Joanna McKasy, head lifeguard at the center. “We offer classes starting for children as young as six months or as old as 99-plus. There is a class for everyone and any ability.”
Registrations are being accepted for the swimming lessons throughout the summer. Using the American Red Cross curriculum, classes are based on age and ability.
“We also have aqua-aerobics classes on Tuesday and Thursdays for $2 a class,” McKasy added.
In addition to swimming lessons held at the aquatic center, several YMCA locations are reaching into the community this year to partner with local elementary schools. The Port Orange Family YMCA worked with Turie T. Small Elementary School to teach water safety education the week of May 12.
“Even though it would be a free program, we decided to take the program to them,”
Jinni Aiers, senior program director at the Port Orange YMCA told the Daytona Times.
Swim programs are often held on site at the YMCA but those who may desire to come are not always able due to lack of transportation, scheduling conflicts and other issues.
“I feel it was very successful. The classes were one week long, held 40 minutes a day. I covered things like reaching assist, rescue breathing, pool rules and different ways to stay safe at the beach or at the park,” Aiers noted.
Aiers also told the elementary students to always have a buddy with them when swimming and how to call 9-1-1.
Some students received scholarships to take swimming lessons at the YMCA, which are still available.
In addition to these outreach programs, each YMCA family center location will offer Splash Week, a program developed by YMCA-USA that focuses on teaching water safety and swimming lessons free to the community.
The YMCA also will participate in the Safe Kids Water Safety Program provided by Healthy Communities again this year, offering 550 swimming scholarships to low-income families across Volusia County.
Swimming classes at the Cypress Aquatic Center is $35 for five classes.
The registration form is online at CypressAquaticCenter.com.