The upcoming three-day weekend will be a busy one for families, especially at North Texas lakes and pools.
Memorial Day weekend is essentially the start of the busy summer swim season.
But there's concern that the pandemic has caused a setback for some kids to refresh their swimming skills or even learn to swim, as parents and kids dive anxiously into their first full summer without pandemic restrictions.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas is hoping to connect with those parents this weekend to help prevent accidental drowning.
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On Saturday, nearly a dozen locations across North Texas will be holding free swim assessments for families to make sure they're ready for the summer.
The event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and parents can sign up at ymcadallas.org/swim.
Children will get to work in a pool with a licensed swim instructor who will evaluate each child’s swim skills and determine which level of swim lessons they should be enrolled in.
The free swim assessments will take place at the following locations:
- Coppell Family YMCA
- Cross Timbers YMCA (Flower Mound)
- Grand Prairie YMCA
- J.E.R. Chilton YMCA at Rockwall
- Moody Family YMCA
- Moorland Family YMCA at Oak Cliff
- Park South YMCA
- Semones YMCA
- T. Boone Pickens YMCA
- Waxahachie YMCA
- White Rock YMCA
Across the country, drowning is the second cause of death in preschoolers. The YMCA wants to drop that statistic by getting as many kids as possible enrolled in swimming lessons and educating parents.
“Drowning is silent. It happens just below the surface of water and a child is unconscious in as little as 10 seconds," said said Jennifer Pewitt, associate vice president of Aquatics at the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88%.
While that's important, experts said it’s just as crucial to educate parents on preventing drowning in the first place.
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“Many parents think that their child will scream or kick when they are in trouble in the water, but the sad fact is that you will not hear your child drown. Drowning is quick and silent. It takes 20 seconds for a child to become unconscious, 90 seconds for irreversible damage,” said Pewitt. “The majority of children drown in backyard pools and with adults around – but they may be distracted or do not have their eyes actively on the child. Our goal is to educate parents so that no preschool-aged child drowns in North Texas.”
Pewitt said the YMCA observed in uptick in drownings last year across North Texas. They're also working through a life guard shortage due to COVID-19 making it difficult for people to get their certifications completed in the past year. If you are interested in applying to be a life guard, click here.
Simple distractions or having your back turned away for even just a few seconds can make the difference, Pewitt said. Appointing a water watching and having constant eyes on the child is critical.
“In the time that it takes you to answer a text message, or talk to a friend, to run inside for snacks or to change your day baby‘s diaper, the kids on the bottom of the pool,” she warned. “If your kid gets into trouble at the pool, you’re not going to hear them call for help because drowning is silent. I think the message for parents is you can’t think that you’re going to hear your child drown you’re just not going to hear them. So you physically have to have your eyes on them at all times."
After the free swim assessments, parents will be able to sign up for swim classes that day.
The YMCA offers several scholarships so parents who need extra help won't need to worry about costs.
Meantime, the YMCA of Fort Worth is running a life jacket drive to collect for day campers this summer.