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Thursday, Apr 25, 2019
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It’s time to focus on keeping children safe around water

There is a list of basic life skills all parents instinctively know they must teach their children to keep them safe and healthy.

They pass along habits such as looking both ways before you cross the street, washing your hands with soap and water and eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables every day.

For too many parents, safety in and around water is not on the list; and that’s something we need to change.

Fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years old.

More children under the age of 4 drown in Florida than anywhere else in the nation. Hillsborough County regularly ranks among the highest counties nationally for drowning cases in the same age group. Here in Plant City, three young children tragically died in recent weeks due to drowning.

The Plant City Family YMCA is committed to reducing these staggering statistics, particularly in communities where children are most at risk. Drowning prevention is a top priority in the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA’s strategic plan. The Y’s goal is to engage parents and caregivers about the importance of water safety skills and to provide more children access to swim lessons.

The Tampa YMCA, in collaboration with the Tampa Bay Rays, United Way Suncoast and the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, offers a drowning prevention program to its summer campers.

The Go for Green program provides free swim lessons to YMCA summer campers unable to pass the swim test. They receive free swim lessons throughout the summer until they pass the swim test and get a green wristband.

In its first pilot year last summer, Go for Green had over 750 participants.

The Plant City Y also provides scholarships to children from low-income and underserved communities to participate in free water safety lessons. The lessons teach young people valuable skills like what to do if they find themselves in the water unexpectedly, a situation every child should be equipped to handle.

Through Go for Green and swim scholarships, the Y hopes to further bridge cultural and access gaps that can prevent some children from learning water safety skills.

To learn more about the Plant City Y’s swim lessons, call (813) 757-6677, stop by the branch at 1507 YMCA Place or go to www.tampaymca.org.

Lalita Llerena is the communications director for the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA.

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