During August, The Gateway Family YMCA is offering Safety Around Water, a free program designed to engage and educate parents about the importance of water safety skills and provide more of America’s youth access to water safety lessons, in Elizabeth, NJ.  The program focuses on reaching underserved communities with a special emphasis on African American and Hispanic communities, where risk of drowning among children is highest.

The Gateway Family YMCA is partnering with The City of Elizabeth to institute this program free to Elizabeth youth participants.  The City of Elizabeth is providing transportation for the participants from their Recreation program to the Safety Around Water program, taught by staff members of The Gateway Family YMCA.  Safety Around Water is an eight class program, and participants are being taught two times a week for four weeks, at the Fred Erxleben Recreation Center in Elizabeth, NJ. 

“We are proud to offer Safety Around Water to the Elizabeth community.  Every child needs access to water safety skill lessons and resources.  Through Safety Around Water, we provide not only water safety skills, but we work to get kids comfortable in the water, and develop a love of swimming,” said Krystal R. Canady, CEO, The Gateway Family YMCA.  

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60 percent of Hispanic children, and 70 percent of African American cannot swim, compared to just 40 percent of Caucasian children, according to the USA Swimming Foundation. Fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages one to 14 years old, and African American children ages 5 to 14 are three times more likely to drown.  Safety Around Water encourages parents/guardians to help children learn water safety and swimming skills.  Children learn how to respond if they find themselves in unexpected water situations -- from how to reach the water’s surface if they submerge to safely reaching a pool’s edge or exiting any body of water.  

“We are teaching at least 100 children the Safety Around Water curriculum in four half-hour sessions each morning,” added Melynda A Mileski, EVP/COO, The Gateway Family YMCA.  “Water safety and swimming is an important life skill that we intend to foster in each of the children in our Safety Around Water program.  Often in an underserved community, staying safe means keeping kids away from water, but we want to change that patter in Elizabeth.”

Families interested in learning more about Safety Around Water and how to enroll their child in The Gateway Family YMCA swimming and water safety classes should visit www.tgfymca.org or www.ymca.net/watersafety.