Swim lessons teach children how to react during emergencies

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A local pool instructor said too many people drown because they don’t know how to react during a water emergency.

A near east side YMCA director said he is not waiting for a tragedy and is taking a progressive approach by teaching children how to swim correctly and what to do if you see someone else struggling in the water.

Al Obeyuwana, Director of the Eldon & Elise Ward Family YMCA said drowning is the second leading cause of death among children nationally. His Y has taught more than 100 children how to swim this summer.

“I really didn’t know how to swim that much, but these lessons really taught me more,” said 12-year-old Anthony Friendly.

NBC4 talked with five young swimmers ages 10 through 13 who had passed their deep water test.

“I use to be scared jumping off diving boards, or even to just jump in the water, I would go down ladders. But now I can jump off diving boards and I can dive,” said 12-year-old Sam Terry.

Not only are they better swimmers, but they know rescue techniques.

”We’ll teach them how to be safe around the water. If they were to go to an apartment pool or another pool without a lifeguard on duty they remain safe in the water,” said Seth Bower, Senior Aquatic Director at the Y.

Instructors said these lessons also build confidence.

”I really didn’t feel that comfortable and they helped me and I did it the right way,” said 13-year-old Kania Barksdale.

Pools like the Eldon & Elise Ward Family YMCA are especially important for minorities.

”We know that African-American kids of the same age, between 5-14 are three to five times more likely to drown and that speaks to access,” said Obeyuwana. “Historically the African-American community has had less access to pools and water availability, and that leads to swim lessons and then being able to pass on that life-skill from parent to child. So serving and being a part of this community we see that as a gap that the Y can definitely play a role in.”

Eldon Ward, a Columbus business leader who could be found swimming at the Woodland Avenue YMCA every morning, and his family are raising funds through a swim-a-thon for free safety around water lessons. That event will be held on August 12, you can contact the YMCA to donate.

Money raised by ‘Laps for Learning’ being held this month will go for future lessons for inner city Columbus children.

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