Just days after a two-year-old slipped out of a sliding glass door and drowned in the family’s backyard pool, the Central Florida YMCA announced it will offer four free introductory swim classes for children.

And while the lessons cannot console the grieving family of Susan Delgado, it will help educate parents and children about water safety.

The toddler fell into the family’s MetroWest pool Friday afternoon. Her mother and emergency medical workers tried to resuscitate the child, who was taken off life support the following day at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

Susan’s story is all too common in Florida, which has the highest drowning death rate among children ages 1-4 in the nation.

The YMCA is hoping to decrease those numbers by offering children ages 4-12 free swim lessons from trained instructors during “Safety Around Water Week,” April 24-27.

Swim lessons are not cheap and the YMCA’s offer allows many that don’t have the resources to be introduced to swim lessons, which have proven to reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88 percent.

Rowdy Gaines, vice president of aquatics at the Central Florida YMCA, considers swim lessons an essential part of growing up in Florida. The three-time Olympic gold medal winner learned to swim at nine months, before he walked.

“You would never put your child in a car without buckling them in,” Gaines said. “Why would you live in Florida without teaching your child to swim.”

Gaines is hoping many in underserved communities will take advantage of the lessons.

According to statistics from the American Red Cross,  70 percent of African-American, 60 percent of Hispanic and 42 percent of Caucasian children have little to no swimming ability.

“The odds stack up as children age,” he said. “It’s been proven that if children don’t learn by 10 years of age, there’s a 90 percent chance they will never learn.”

Gaines said it typically takes eight swim lessons for a child to be safe in the water but some take to it like fish and conquer the skills in two lessons.

Swim lessons at the YMCA range from $8 for a group lesson to $20 for a private lesson, but Gaines asks parents to consider, “what kind of price would you put on your child’s safety?”

Now, in its third year, the Y is expecting at least 6,000 children to participate in “Safety Around Water Week.” The lessons will take place at 20 Y locations in Orange, Lake, Brevard, Seminole, Marion and Osceola counties.

Parents can register their children at watersafety.ymcacf.org or by stopping by their neighborhood YMCA. They can also text “SWIM” to 407-641-2280. Space is limited and the deadline to register is April 19.

About The Author

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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