Though swimming is typically linked with warmer weather, there are still plenty of individuals who during the winter like to take advantage of indoor pools whether for enjoyment, a workout or both.
And when temperatures rise, the number of swimmers swell at public swimming pools, lakes, rivers and other watering holes.
But not everyone gets that opportunity to cool off or take a lap. However, thanks to Make A Splash, children in Akron are learning how to swim. And for free.
Splash is a national water safety initiative created by USA Swimming, the governing body for competitive swimming in this country and based in Colorado.
“Our goal is to target at-risk children of drowning or being injured for lack of water safety training,” said Tony Grimes.
“Many African-American children drown at a rate four times than that of their Caucasian peers.”
Grimes is the vice president of community development at the East Akron YMCA who oversees several outreach programs, including Make A Splash.
He explained many of these children have no access to “guarded swimming pools,” lack formal training or have parents who also don’t know how to swim.
“Kids are inquisitive, and when water is nearby it’s a hazard,” Grimes added.
Akron’s Make A Splash began in 2011 at two YMCAs, Riverfront in Cuyahoga Falls and University Park, and is working to include more of its locations. The organization has partnered Splash with Akron Public Schools, local swim teams and clubs and churches. It has plans to recruit children from other neighborhoods that don’t have access to guarded swimming pools.
Grimes, who said, “We try to focus on children in the third to fifth grade,” took time recently to discuss Make A Splash at Riverfront, where a group of 20-plus Splash children from Imagine Schools were taking instruction in a pool area so invitingly warm.
The eight 45-minute Splash classes play out at the end of the school day. Children are provided swimsuits and goggles along with a snack.
Riverfront Y handles about 24 children, where University Park, with a larger pool, accommodates up to 35. Transportation between schools and Splash sites is provided.
“Midway Lanes has been wonderful,” Grimes said. “They’ve been providing buses since we started and very inexpensively.”
Other sponsors supporting Make A Splash include Key Bank, Acme Fresh Markets and Akron’s Neighborhood Partnership Program, Grimes added.
Splash was brought to the area by Cuyahoga Falls High school varsity swimmer, Andrew Appleby, who worked collaboratively with the YMCA and USA Swimming.
“I can’t say enough about Andrew and his vision,” Grimes said. “He raised two-thousand dollars to get the program going in 2011 and recruits volunteer swim coaches and instructors from Hudson, Stow, Woodridge … And all are certified lifeguards.”
Depending on availability, Splash classes “usually have about 14 volunteers in a given session,” Grimes said.
Appleby was inspired by swimmer, Cullen Jones, who won Olympic gold in 2008 and is the Make A Splash national awareness ambassador for USA Swimming. According to USA Swimming, “Seventy percent of African American children, 60 percent of Latino children and 40 percent of Caucasian children have low or no swimming ability.”
“It’s been a great program and probably at around 245 kids who’ve participated,” Grimes said. “And we’ve had very good community response.”
Those interested in Make A Splash as a participant, volunteer or benefactor may contact Grimes at [email protected] or (330) 784-0408.