Every summer Angela Montayne likes to take her two sons Luke and John out to the country to go camping. But she was often concerned whenever they wanted to go swimming since they never had the opportunity to take swimming lessons. One day Angela saw a sign at her sons’ school library that was promoting a free aquatics program being offered by the Greater Hartford YMCA for Hartford and East Hartford children. She contacted the Y and was able to sign both her sons up to participate in the seven week course. Luke, age nine, and John, age six, not only became much stronger swimmers, but learned new aquatic-related terms and safety methods.
“The aquatics program at the YMCA helped my sons become much better swimmers and much more aware of how to be safe in and around the water,” said Montayne. “It was such a great experience for my children that I have even recommended two other families to sign up their children.”
Approximately 500 children in East Hartford and Hartford will now have the same opportunity to learn how to swim like Luke and John thanks to a nearly $220,000, three-year grant awarded to the Greater Hartford YMCA from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
In an effort to mitigate recent increases in youth drowning deaths, and to promote a life-long healthy activity, the third grade swimming project follows a national YMCA model of an intensive seven-week swim curriculum designed to increase the youngsters’ familiarity and comfort within the water.
“More than half of African-American and Hispanic children cannot swim, and this puts them more at risk of drowning than their white peers,” said Harold Sparrow, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Hartford. “We thank the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving for its support of the YMCA’s Third Grade Swim Program, which will ensure that every Hartford child has the skills to enjoy water recreation safely today, and to instill a love of swimming for the future.”
According to studies, nearly 20 percent of all drowning deaths are of children 14 and younger. In a USA Swimming study completed by the University of Memphis' Department of Health and Sports Sciences, researchers found that 31 percent of white respondents could not swim safely, compared to 58 percent of African-American respondents. The non-swimming rate for Latino children was almost as high — 56 percent.
The YMCA aquatics classes are held at two locations: the Learning Corridor in Hartford and East Hartford Middle School. The program includes structured activities to build a solid foundation of basic aquatic skills. These free classes are available to East Hartford and Hartford Children each year for the next three years for children ages five through nine. To help ensure that children maintain and build upon the skills they have developed, participating children can continue swimming after they have completed this program thanks to the availability of post-program scholarships and free transportation. About 40 percent of the participating children continue beyond the seven-week program.
“This seven-week course will provide hundreds of our children with an opportunity to learn how to swim, learn new skills and become more physically fit, and learn new skills,” said Pete Rosa, senior program officer at the Hartford Foundation for Pubic Giving.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. In 2015, the Foundation celebrates 90 years of grantmaking in the Greater Hartford region, made possible by gifts from thousands of generous individuals, families and organizations. It has awarded grants of more than $620 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.