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'Make A Splash' program makes big waves in Wyandotte County

Providence YMCA
Posted at 7:20 AM, Jul 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-22 08:20:33-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — According to the CDC, around ten people die from unintentional drownings everyday.

Of that number, two are children less than 14 years old.

That's why the Providence YMCA and the Oak Ridge Youth Development School have teamed up to change those statistics and help children learn the life-saving skill.

Twelve-year-old Oak Ridge student Caleb Harris said laps around the pool are easy now, but it wasn't always that simple.

"I had never been swimming before and it scared me because I wasn't used to just jumping in a pool and swimming and being around other people in a pool," Harris said.

Last year, the YMCA of Greater Kansas City was one of 78 cities selected to receive a $15,000 grant from the USA Swimming Foundation for its nationwide initiative called "Make A Splash."

"It was so crucial to us because one of Wyandotte County's statistics says that drowning among our youth was one of our higher numbers," Oak Ridge Program Director Jacqueline Anderson said. "And we wanted to make an impact by teaching them."

Students learn about water safety for six weeks.

"Each kids gets 45 minutes to an hour in the pool, just learning our safety around water curriculum," YMCA of Greater Kansas City Senior Aqcuatics Director Sadie Birchard said. "So we teach them how to be safe in and around the water, focusing on jump, push, turn and grab. And swim, float, swim."

Harris said it's a game changer.

"It's important because you might have to save somebody's life when you're out swimming," Harris said.

"They really focus on making sure that these kids have an opportunity to learn a lifesaving skill and even for that church itself, they focus on education curriculum so that way when they get back to the school system they're ready to go," Birchard said.

According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional deaths for children between the ages of 1 and 4.

The drowning rate for African-American children is more 5.5 times higher than white children.

"It's really sad, a really sad stat," Providence YMCA swimming instructor John Pride said.

Pride was once a student at Oak Ridge, and is now teaching kids the water safety skills to help change that statistic.

"It makes me feel really good to give back to them because without us, they might not have the opportunity to learn how to swim," Pride said. "So it makes me feel really good, I'm really proud to be a part of this program."

Pride is one of many swimming instructors working to get more kids in the water.

"One of the first things we teach them is how to go underwater. That is a big thing, like getting their face wet is a thing a lot of kids are afraid of," Pride said. "So we teach them day one to go in the water and bring their face back up and they're OK, they're still fine, and we just kind of build on that from there."