Memorial Day weekend also kicks off the summer swim season. What starts off as an afternoon of fun all too often ends in tragedy in North Texas.
Statistics compiled by the Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition put Texas as No. 1 in the country for pool drownings; Tarrant County ranks second in the state.
"It's still not changed for two years in-a-row. That's why we're not letting up. We're doubling our efforts," said Pam Cannell, co-founder of the nonprofit Drowning Prevention Coalition, which formed in late 2012.
The coalition's mission is to prevent drowning deaths through mobile no-cost to low-cost swimming and water safety instruction to both children and adults. They also teach parents and caregivers water safety skills.
Beth Jones, also a co-founder, said "The swim-safe program isn't swimming lessons, it's being smart in the water. You may not know how to swim, but if all you do is stand in the shallow part, that's the best place to be."
Last summer, volunteers taught 113 children and 13 adults water safety skills. The goal for 2014 is to enroll 500 at-risk children in water safety and swim instruction and to teach safety skills to 1,000 parents and/or caregivers.
The first Safe Swim program starts May 27 at Forest Park Pool. The sessions start at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. and last 30 minutes.
Anyone from age 3 to 103 is eligible and the cost is $5 for eight sessions. Other sessions through the summer will follow at the Westside and Eastside YMCAs, before a final session is held at the Forest Park Pool. The program also offers coupons for swim lessons and life jackets.
Volunteers are also needed as the program grows through the summer.
“We need volunteers in the water to teach drowning prevention lessons. We need water buddies to assist. And, we need people on deck to help with registration,” said Cannell.
Cannell and Jones said stopping drowning deaths calls for a community solution.
"It's a community problem," Cannell said. "In my opinion, it's a silent public health epidemic in North Texas. Silent because people don't scream and yell when they drown."
Swim Safe Program Schedules:
- May 27 — June 6, Forest Park Pool, 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
- June 17 — June27, Westside YMCA, 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
- July 22 — Aug 1, Eastside YMCA, 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
- Aug. 26 — Sept. 5, Forest Park Pool, 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Parent Information Sessions:
- May 20, Forest Park Pool, 6 p.m.
- June 9, 11, Westside YMCA, 6:30 p.m.
- July 14, 17, Eastside YMCA, 6:30 p.m.
- Aug. 19, Forest Park Pool, 6 p.m.
Cost: $5 for eight sessions