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GEHA, KC Chiefs offer free swim lessons to Kansas City-area children

Chiefs partner with GEHA to offer free swim lessons to children
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Posted at 11:24 PM, Jan 31, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — GEHA and the Chiefs want kids to learn how to swim.

The team and the company are working together to make that happen.

This NFL season, GEHA, the Government Employees Health Association, has given hundreds of metro kids access to free swim lessons.

“As many people know, we have our name on a stadium, GEHA Field at Arrowhead," said Gene Willis, manager of corporate social responsibility for GEHA.
Our partners at the Hunt Family Foundation, the Kansas City Chiefs, decided they wanted to be a part of this.”

The Joe Delaney Learn to Swim program presented by GEHA has expanded to 11 cities and helped 1,700 children, Willis said.

GEHA gave $5,000 to every city where the Chiefs played an away game.

The monetary support is for more than just swim lessons. It also includes transportation and swim equipment.

GEHA will keep the program afloat because of the inequities in the aquatic system.

“There have been far too many kids lost to drowning. This community continues to lose child after child to drowning,” said Sabrah Parsons, aquatic director, YMCA of Greater Kansas City. “We’re breaking those. We’re resetting the script. We're saying, ''not anymore here.''

There are many barriers when trying to learn how to swim,

“Black children have a six times higher rate of drowning than their white counterparts," Willis said. "Hispanic children have three-and-a-half times higher rate for drowning than their white counterparts."

One swimmer knows how important the program is for kids who can't swim.

“It’s just too deep for me. That’s why I need swimming lessons,” said one YMCA swimmer.

Another YMCA swimmer told KSHB 41 Reporter Megan Abundis he didn't have to drown and can help kids that don’t know how to swim.

“Swimming affects where you vacation, where you travel, how you normalize your health," Willis said. "And let’s be clear on this too: it’s a lot of fun, it's a whole lot of fun to do with your friends and family."

Willis said GEHA plans to expand its commitment to the program next year.

“When community partners can come together for a greater good like GEHA has with the YMCA, with the municipal partner like the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas and Wyandotte County, there are some really unique things that can happen where we jointly can break down barriers,” Willis said. “They aren’t just barriers to health. Those are barriers to access, political barriers, those are socioeconomic and cultural and racial barriers. When we see a pool in 2024, there aren’t those same barriers to access as there were in the 50's and 60's. We're proud of that. We don’t want to repeat those mistakes. At GEHA, we’re looking to create new healthy habits for long-term future. It's who we are.”