COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, May 20. ON the heels of a photo finish win in the 4×100 meter freestyle relay last summer in Beijing, Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones joins forces with the USA Swimming Foundation and ConocoPhillips in an effort to reduce the drowning statistics among minority youth. Jones will spread the message with a six-city event series, "Make a Splash with Cullen Jones," presented by ConocoPhillips, beginning May 20, in Houston.
Motivated by the sobering fact that African-American children drown at a rate almost three times higher than Caucasian children in similar age groups, Jones, the first African-American male to hold a world record in swimming, is using his fame to raise awareness on the issue and ensure more kids learn to swim, especially in urban communities. As primary spokesman for the USA Swimming Foundation's Make a Splash initiative, Jones will tour the country promoting the availability of low- to no-cost swimming lessons to give all kids access to life-saving swimming skills, regardless of their ethnic or economic background.
In addition to Houston, "Make a Splash with Cullen Jones" will visit five other cities this year — Indianapolis, Seattle, Kansas City, Denver and Los Angeles. There, Jones will meet with community leaders, parents and children to deliver a stark message – the ability to swim is a life-and-death issue that requires immediate action from parents and kids. He also will focus on increasing funding for learn-to-swim initiatives across the country by soliciting donations to the Make a Splash/Sponsor a Swim Lesson program. Sponsor a Swim Lesson is an online giving program that provides the public an opportunity to help fund free or low-cost swim lessons for kids who otherwise may not have the opportunity to learn.
"I didn't learn how to swim to become an Olympic champion," said Jones. "I learned how to swim, because when I was five years old, I almost drowned. Every summer these tragedies happen and we talk about how they could have been prevented; yet every year the statistics remain the same. I am committed to a real solution and with the help of USA Swimming Foundation's Make a Splash initiative and ConocoPhillips, we can do it."
According to research done by USA Swimming in 2008, six out of 10 African-American children don't know how to swim, nearly twice as many as their Caucasian counterparts, while 56 percent of Hispanic and Latino children are unable to swim.
Parents are a major contributor in a child's inability to swim; only 13 percent of children who come from a non-swimming household will learn to swim. African-American and Hispanic / Latino children are six times more likely to be part of a family in which neither parent nor child can swim. In those families, 91 percent of African-American children will not learn to swim. Among Caucasians and Hispanic / Latino children, that number is closer to 70 percent.
"Drowning statistics, coupled with our research, provide some clear answers to the question, ‘how do we cure the drowning epidemic?'" said Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming's executive director. "We've identified some barriers that keep kids from learning to swim, and now we are ready to work on overcoming them. Through Make a Splash, we will educate parents on the importance of learning to swim, and put forth a positive role model with Cullen Jones. Most importantly, and because of the financial support of our partner, ConocoPhillips, we can provide opportunities for kids to become water-safe through access to free or low-cost swimming lessons."
"At ConocoPhillips we believe we are defined by what we pass on to the next generation," said Jim Mulva, ConocoPhillips chairman and CEO. "Safety has always been a core value in our company, and the Make a Splash initiative is an ongoing commitment to increase the number of children who are able to swim as well as educate our youth on water safety. ConocoPhillips is proud to work with Cullen Jones and USA Swimming on this united effort."
Make a Splash, the national, child-focused water safety initiative of the USA Swimming Foundation, began in 2007. In two years, more than 37,000 kids have gone through Make a Splash swimming lessons. Make a Splash works by aligning the nation's top learn-to-swim providers in an effort to save lives. Currently, there are 68 providers giving free or low-cost water safety instruction across the country. For more information, or to donate or sponsor a swim lesson for a child in need, go to www.makeasplash.org.
About Cullen Jones
Cullen Jones is one of the fastest freestyle sprinters in the world today. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, he was a member of the electrifying 400m freestyle relay team that broke the world record and won Olympic gold in one of the most memorable races in history. With the victory, Cullen became the second African-American to win Olympic swimming gold. As a member of the 2008-2009 U.S. National Team, Cullen is currently training for the 2009 ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships, which is the qualifying meet for the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome. He trains under Coach David Marsh at SwimMAC in Charlotte, North Carolina.
About Make A Splash
Make a Splash is a national child-focused anti-drowning initiative created by The USA Swimming Foundation, which operates by aligning the nation's top learn-to-swim resources in an effort to save lives. Make a Splash educates parents through a national awareness campaign, saves lives by joining forces with grassroots learn-to-swim programs and reaches thousands of children through wide-reaching in-school materials. The program exists because nine people drown each day in the U.S., and in ethnically diverse communities, the youth drowning rate is two to three times higher. For more information, visit makeasplash.org.
ConocoPhillips became a corporate sponsor of USA Swimming in 1973. ConocoPhillips is an integrated energy company with interests around the world. Headquartered in Houston, the company has more than 30,000 employees and operates in more than 30 countries. For more information, go to www.conocophillips.com.
The above article is a press release submitted to Swimming World Magazine. It has been posted in its entirety without editing. Swimming World offers all outlets the chance to reach our audience by contacting us at Newsmaster@swimmingworldmagazine.com. However, Swimming World reserves the right to choose what material is posted.