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    For non-swimmers, a chance to learn

    The Kiwanis Club of Seminole will offer free lessons for children Monday through Thursday evenings.

    By JULIANNE WU

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001


    SEMINOLE -- Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 in the nation.

    And for every child who drowns, four are hospitalized and 16 receive emergency room care for near-drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

    That is why swimming lessons are so important.

    To reduce such grim statistics, the Kiwanis Club of Seminole offers free swimming lessons to area children from kindergarten through fifth grade. This year's sessions will be held April 30 through May 24.

    "We have two objectives: water safety and survival," said Bob Sims, a retired Marine major and program coordinator for several years. "We're not trying to get anyone ready for the Olympics."

    He stressed that the sessions are not for children who already know how to swim. "We don't have enough staff for that," he said.

    The half-hour lessons will take place between 5 and 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, beginning April 30. Because of time and personnel constraints, the program will be limited to 100 children.

    This year's program, the 17th year it has been offered, will be held at the Seminole High School swimming pool on 86th Avenue N. For the past several years, the sessions were held at the American Legion's pool on Park Boulevard in Seminole.

    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 can youngsters advance to Level 3. At all levels, the children are closely supervised by Vicki Wood, a certified swimming instructor and volunteer instructor.

    Wood and Sims have recruited about 20 Kiwanians, members of the Kiwanis-sponsored Seminole High School Key Club and the St. Petersburg Junior College's Circle K Clubs, and other community volunteers to help with the program. But other volunteers, preferably swimmers, are welcome to the first class April 30.

    After youngsters complete the lessons, they will get T-shirts. The Kiwanis Club of Seminole budgets about $1,500 a year for the swimming program, called Every Child A Swimmer. That includes a $400 contribution from a fellow organization, the Kiwanis Seminole Breakfast Club. The program has won numerous Kiwanis awards, including first place in international competition in 1998 and first place in statewide competition in 2000.

    - Julianne Wu can be reached at 445-4221 or by e-mail at wu@sptimes.com.

    When to register

    Registration will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the swimming pool adjacent to Seminole Middle School, on 86th Avenue N near the intersection of 131st Street. Children must wear their bathing suits and be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Each child will be given a test to see if or where he or she should be placed in the classes. The sessions are for non-swimmers only and will run Monday through Thursday from April 30 through May 24. No telephone calls.

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