Free swimming lessons for Houston-area kids in apartments

- Good news for parents! The YMCA of Greater Houston is offering free swim classes and water safety techniques to economically disadvantaged children at 127 Houston-area apartment complexes. Harris County ranks No. 1 in the state for childhood drowning. Of the 107 child drownings in Texas last year, Harris County experienced the most with 18 children losing their lives.

In Texas, drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of 14. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for nonfatal submersion injuries. Many drownings occur at apartment swimming pools, which typically have no lifeguards on duty.

In its effort to eliminate drownings, the YMCA of Greater Houston is offering free swim classes and water safety techniques to children at 127 Houston-area apartment complexes. In a program called Safety Around Water, the YMCA expects to serve 5,000 children ages 3-12 this summer.

"The YMCA takes drowning very seriously," said Paul McEntire, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Houston. "The more children who learn how to swim, the fewer drownings we will have."

The free classes focus on personal safety techniques that include:
Jump-Push-Turn-Grab, which teaches children to push off the bottom of the pool as they are submerging to get back up to the surface while turning to grab the side of the pool.
Swim-Float-Swim, which teaches children to swim a short distance on their fronts, roll over onto their backs to float and rest, and then roll on their fronts to continue swimming to safety.

In its 10th year, the growing program has served nearly 20,000 children.

The week-long sessions run five days a week, Monday through Friday. Parents and guardians must be present with their children for the hour-long sessions.

Partners in the program include the Houston Apartment Association, Toyota, USA Swimming and the Houston Coalition for Drowning Elimination.

For more information, please contact the YMCA at 713-659-5566.

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