COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 4. JANET Evans started swimming for one great reason: water safety. It remains so important to her that the five-time Olympic gold medalist has partnered with USA Swimming for its award-winning “Make a Splash” water safety campaign, an initiative that will run throughout the months of April and May. The campaign reaches out to children and families across the country in an effort to educate them on the importance of proper swim instruction and water safety.
“We have found that if children don’t learn to swim by the third grade, then they are less likely to ever learn,” said Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming Executive Director. “If USA Swimming can spread the word about water safety, we will not only help kids enjoy our great sport, but also save lives.”
USA Swimming’s annual campaign to improve water safety has never been so comprehensive:
Water Safety Pledge
USA Swimming hopes to raise awareness about water-related injuries by asking children and families to sign the Water Safety Pledge at www.makeasplash.org/discovery, committing to stay safe in the pools during the summer. In 2005, more than 90,000 people signed the first-ever Water Safety Pledge.
USA Swimming has teamed up with Discovery Communications to develop an in-school marketing program expected to reach students in 25,000 schools, five times more schools (and students) than 2005. All children can be involved in the campaign by signing the Water Safety Pledge and participating in the “Make a Splash” school sweepstakes. One school will win a visit from an Olympic swimmer as well as an exclusive sneak peek at an upcoming Discovery Kids show with free giveaways and a $1,000 library of Discovery Education multimedia products.
The Big Swim
USA Swimming has partnered with New York City’s Asphalt Green Swim Club for the 11th annual The Big Swim event on April 29, in which more than a thousand New York City children from diverse backgrounds will show off their newly-acquired swimming skills in a day-long celebration. For more information, log onto www.usaswimming.org/makeasplashmedia.
Evans and Olympic silver medalist Maritza Correia, the first black woman to make a U.S. Olympic swim team (2004), are encouraging families to learn how to swim together in order to stay safe and healthy this summer. The two women will be at The Big Swim event. Log onto www.usaswimming.org/makeasplashmedia to view their biographical information.
Evans’ mother, Barbara, never learned to swim. Barbara knew the dangers small children face around water, and when her daughter was just a toddler, she enrolled her in swimming lessons.
“My mother has a total fear of the water,” Evans said.
When the Evans family moved to California, their new home came with a backyard pool. In addition to Janet’s mother, none of the three Evans children knew how to swim.
“My mom was scared something would happen to us, so she enrolled us in swimming lessons at the Fullerton YMCA,” Evans said. “I was only 18 months old and was told I was too young, but I really wanted to be in the water where my older brothers were.”
Baby Janet managed to convince those around her she was ready for lessons. And was she ever.
“By age three, I was able to swim all four strokes,” Evans said. “I think getting kids in the water while they are young is the thing. Kids need to learn to swim to be comfortable and safe in the water. Most parents don’t realize how quickly a drowning can happen.”
Correia took a different aquatic path. Diagnosed with scoliosis at age six, doctors recommended swimming or gymnastics. Correia grew up in Puerto Rico, where her family enjoyed the beach. So swimming it was.
“We spent a lot of time at the beach and at an early age, my mother was teaching my brother and me basics, like floating and how to be safe in the water,” said Correia. “I started swimming lessons at age seven and by the fall of that year, I signed up for a swim team.”
Correia is troubled when she sees drowning statistics that show black children between the ages of 5 and 19 are 2.6 times more likely to drown than white children.
“Those statistics are very alarming, but this is a problem that can be fixed,” she said. “We just need to be able to take time to help our kids learn basic water safety skills and teach them how to swim. Once you learn how to swim, you can enjoy the swimming lifestyle of good health and fitness.”
Not everyone can win Olympic gold medals. But everyone can learn to be safe in the water.
Drowning By the Numbers
The following statistics demonstrate the need for action:
No. 1 cause of death for children under five.
Second-leading cause of injury-related death among children under the age of 15.
2.6 = number of times African-American children age 5-19 are more likely to drown than white children in
the same age group.
9 = number of people who drown in the United States every day.
70 percent of all preschoolers who drown who are in the care of one or both parents at the time of
5,000 = estimated number of children age 14 and under who are hospitalized annually due to near-
6,000 = approximate number of annual drownings in the United States.