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No excuse for not learning to swim

What a tragedy in Shreveport, La., where six teenagers died Monday after a swimming party turned into a desperate effort to save one another from drowning.

The Shreveport teens from at least two families drowned in the Red River after they were playing in shallow water and one stepped off a ledge into an 18-foot sinkhole.

The victims, who ranged from 13 to 18 years old, died while trying to save one another.

Neither the teens nor adults on shore could swim.

In this day and age, there’s no reason not to know how to swim. Parents must take the initiative to make sure their children learn how. The younger the better, as one never knows when he or she will be around water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 3,443 drownings in the United States in 2007, averaging 10 deaths per day. An additional 496 people died from drowning in boating-related incidents.

More than one in five fatal drowning victims are children 14 and younger.

Locally, lessons are offered at the Suffolk Family YMCA.

For families tight on money, the YMCA offers an Open Doors financial assistance program designed to make programs and membership accessible for everyone. In fact, the Suffolk YMCA is a leader in the region in offering such assistance.

Swimming lessons for preschoolers, teens or adults whose families are not YMCA members cost $100 for eight lessons. YMCA members can learn to swim for just $40.

That’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing you or your children can survive in the water that defines so much of the geography of Hampton Roads. And it is a small price to pay for the enjoyment that can be had in those waters or in the pool on a hot summer day.

When there’s a will, there’s a way. There’s no excuse for not getting swimming lessons.