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Kiwanis Club to make every kid a swimmer

For the 18th year, the group will teach kids in kindergarten through fifth grade how to swim to promote water safety and survival.

By JULIANNE WU, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002

SEMINOLE -- With warm weather here, it's time again to warn parents and guardians that drowning is one of the leading causes of death in youngsters under 11.

And the Kiwanis Club of Seminole is trying to do something about it.

For the 18th year, the club -- with the aid of a certified water safety instructor, a certified lifeguard and volunteers -- will offer swimming lessons for nonswimmers in kindergarten through fifth grade, said Bob Sims, Kiwanis president and project leader. The program is co-sponsored by the city of Seminole.

The program, called Every Child A Swimmer, will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays from May 6-30 at Seminole High School's pool, located on 86th Avenue N, just east of Seminole Middle School. Only 100 children will be accepted, and they will be divided into two groups, each group lesson being a half-hour long.

Registration will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. May 1 at the pool. Each child will be given a qualification test in the water, said Sims. A parent or guardian must be present.

The program has been taught to thousands of area youngsters over the years, said Sims, a retired Marine major. "We have two objectives: water safety and survival. We are not trying to get anyone ready for the Olympics."

Each year, such organizations as the Florida Department of Health, the West Central Florida Drowning Prevention Coalition and the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives us the grim statistics about drownings and near-drownings.

For instance, the CDC said that in 1998 (the last year for which it has statistics on its Web site), drowning accounted for 940 deaths among children ages 1 through 14. And for every child who drowns, about four are hospitalized and 16 receive emergency room care for near-drowning.

In Pinellas County, statistics are kept a little differently, said Len Ciecieznski, a public affairs management coordinator.

"We talk about submersions because not all result in drownings and, in some cases, deaths aren't classified as drownings because they occurred more than 24 hours after the incident," he said.

In the year 2000, there were 16 submersions for children under 12 in the county (incidents where a parent, caregiver or bystander called 911 because of a water emergency in a backyard or commercial swimming pool). Of those, one was a drowning and three others were deaths related to the submersion. In the year 2001, there were 19 submersions and one drowning.

In the Every Child A Swimmer program, there are several levels in which the children can participate, according to their comfort and skill levels, Sims said.

For instance, Level 1 is meant to build confidence among those afraid of water; Level 2 is for those who can swim a few feet by themselves. Only when they can swim the length of the pool do youngsters advance to Level 3.

At all levels, the children will be closely supervised by Vicki Wood, a certified swimming instructor. There will also be a licensed lifeguard on duty.

The instructors are volunteers from Seminole Kiwanis Club, friends of Kiwanis, and members of the Seminole High School Key Club.

But more volunteers are always needed, Sims said. They don't have to be qualified instructors and training is provided free. A training session will be at 4 p.m. May 1 at Seminole High's pool. To volunteer, call 392-2422 or just show up at the session.

If you go

The Every Child A Swimmer program, run by the Kiwanis Club of Seminole, will take place May 6-30 at the Seminole High School swimming pool, 86th Avenue N, just east of Seminole Middle School. Free classes, to run Mondays through Thursdays, are open to youngsters in kindergarten through fifth grade only (ages 5 to 11). They must be nonswimmers. Registration will be from 5 to 6 p.m. May 1 at the pool. For information, visit the Kiwanis Web site: www.seminolekiwanis.com2.

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