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Summer Camps And Activities 2023: Federal Grants Providing Free Swim Lessons At 15 YMCA Sites



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Does your child know how to swim?

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more children ages 1 to 4 die from drowning in the United States than any other cause of death, and two children die every day from drowning. For children 5 to 14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury or death.

Those tragic statistics have led State of Connecticut officials to prioritize helping children learn how to swim.

On February 3, US Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) announced the release of $1.5 million from the American Rescue Plan to provide free swim lessons to qualifying children in Connecticut.

He was joined by US Representative Jahana Hayes (D-5), Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Katie Dykes, local elected officials, and YMCA representatives touting the impactful news at the Greater Waterbury YMCA.

Bysiewicz voiced, “Each year too many children’s lives are claimed from drowning. The Connecticut YMCA Free Swim Lessons Program will not only save lives, but also provide children with a fun recreational activity that will create a lifelong skill.”

Dykes echoed those sentiments, saying, “Swimming is such an essential element to many great outdoor experiences. To offer this opportunity to kids statewide will introduce many of them to life-saving skills and is one step we can take to help prevent tragedy on the water. Drowning poses a particular threat to children in underserved communities, so we’re excited for kids to take advantage of this important program ahead of the traditional outdoor recreation season.”

According to a DEEP press release, “Children 17 or under, living in Qualified Census Tracts and/or receiving SNAP benefits, or recommended to the program, are eligible to register for the free swimming lessons at participating YMCAs. These lessons are one of numerous DEEP initiatives aimed at increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in outdoor recreation activities in State Parks and Forests.”

The program is expected to serve 3,000 children each year.

Where To Swim

Murphy’s Deputy Communications Director Deni Kamper said that 15 locations will be participating in the Connecticut YMCA Free Swim Lessons Program. One of the closest participating locations to Newtown is the Greater Waterbury YMCA.

Greater Waterbury YMCA Aquatic Director Patti Flaherty told The Newtown Bee that they started the program in November 2022 with a soft launch for qualified members. Today, they have many people excited to have their children participate in current and future classes.

“I feel that swim lessons are one of the most important skills that [a] child can learn. It teaches them water safety and to respect being near and around the water. Learning to swim is a lifelong lifesaving skill that everyone should know,” Flaherty said.

To learn more about Greater Waterbury YMCA and its free swim lessons program, visit waterburyymca.org or call 203-754-9622.

Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at alissa@thebee.com.

Greater Waterbury YMCA Aquatic Director Patti Flaherty teaches Dash Crespo how to swim in the pool on February 14. Everyone in the class was able to learn the lifesaving skill thanks to the Connecticut YMCA Free Swim Lessons Program in partnership with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. —Bee Photos, Silber
Young Ava’Lynn Bryan kicks her legs while resting on a flotation device and stretches her arm out towards Greater Waterbury YMCA Aquatic Director Patti Flaherty who helped teach her how to swim on February 14.
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