Huron-Clinton Metroparks Expands Live-Saving Swim and Water Safety Initiative
Drowning is an epidemic that hits low-income families and children of color the hardest, with Black children aged 5-19 five and a half times as likely as white children in the same age group to die from drowning.
In Detroit, nearly 80% of children residing in households with incomes below $50,000 do not know how to swim and a substantial 70% of youth have little to no swim experience. The Huron-Clinton Metroparks is working with partners to reverse these trends and save lives by increasing access to free swim lessons and lifesaving water skills in underserved communities through the expansion of its Everyone in the Pool swim initiative.
Through the Everyone in the Pool initiative, the Metroparks, in collaboration with its community partners, has already provided more than 4,600 children with life-saving swim lessons free of charge since 2021. Demand and interest for free swim lessons remain high, as evidenced by registration for 2023 lessons filling up within 24 hours of opening to the public.
“By partnering with community organizations to provide free lessons and expanding lifeguard training programs, we as a community can help prevent families in Michigan from experiencing the often preventable devastation and tragedy of drowning,” said Metroparks Director Amy McMillan.
That’s why Metroparks has developed a 5-year plan to expand the “Everyone in the Pool” initiative through 2028. Through this 5-year plan, Metroparks has committed to providing 6,000 free swim lessons each year with support from existing and future partners. A fundraising goal of $1.5 million has been set to make this expansion possible.
“Swimming shouldn’t be viewed as a luxury but as a necessity because it’s a life-saving skill that has ripple effects in communities like Detroit,” emphasized Keith Flournoy, Deputy Director of Detroit Parks and Recreation.
The Everyone in the Pool program will continue in 2024 with winter swim lessons at indoor partner locations offering free lessons to 1,023 participants from January to May 2024 at the Howell-Highlander Fitness & Aquatic Center, YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, Ann Arbor YMCA, and City of Detroit Parks & Recreation locations. Adult-only swim classes will also be available at multiple YMCA locations in southeast Michigan. Additionally, a lifeguard training pilot program is being developed in partnership with the YMCA to begin expanding training opportunities to address the regional lifeguard shortage.
“One of the main objectives of the partnership between the YMCA and the Metroparks is offering free swim lessons to participants of all ages, with the goal of reducing the drowning rate,” said Amanda Barone, Regional Aquatics Director for YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. “A key factor in that is having enough lifeguard staff to run these activities. To help move our shared goal forward, we are excited to partner and offer an upcoming pilot program of free lifeguard classes in early 2024 to eligible applicants who are interested in working at any Metro Detroit YMCA or the Metroparks.”
If you are interested in signing up for swim lessons or partnering with the Huron-Clinton Metroparks to expand access to critical life-saving swim skills, please visit www.metroparks.com/everyone-in-thepool/.