YMCA, Links partner for swim lessons

Published 10:38 pm Thursday, March 28, 2019

A partnership between the Suffolk Family YMCA and the Suffolk Chapter of The Links, Inc. has helped to provide swim lessons for 32 children for the past eight weeks, which concluded Wednesday.

The Links received a $2,000 grant from the Suffolk Foundation to support the “Swim Like a Fish” program by supporting scholarships for free swim instruction and water safety classes to children in underserved communities in the Suffolk area.

Sixteen spots in the program went to the Boys and Girls Club and the other 16 went to the YMCA’s Before and After School Program.

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Children from ages 6 to 12 were taught lifesaving skills such as how to enter and exit the water safely, how to float if they fall in the water and how to swim.

“We’re just trying to help the community by making it safer,” said Suffolk Family YMCA Aquatics Director Kellie Garrett.

She said the emphasis was on safety skills — not to get in the water without an adult, to make sure someone is watching them when in the water and not to swim after dark. From there, the lessons for the children focused on how to get in and out of the water if they fall in and how to float on their backs if they need to rest or get exhausted. For the children that were ready, the instructors then taught them how to swim.

“At the Y, we teach jump, push, turn, grab,” Garrett said. “Jump in the water, push off the bottom, turn around and grab the wall. So, if they fall in the water, that’s their first response to get to the edge of the pool where it’s safe. We always start off with those basics.”

Garrett said the moment the children in the YMCA’s Before and After School Program get off the bus, they’re running to her office asking her to go swim.

“Once they’re in the water, there’s no stopping them,” Garrett said. “They’re very engaged and eager and so happy to have the opportunity to have this program.”

Duanne Hoffler-Foster, president of The Links, Inc., said the program helps underserved communities and children. For her, the program is personal, as a friend of hers died in a drowning incident. She said there’s too much water in Suffolk for people not to know lifesaving skills.

“We’re just trying to make sure we have the children of Suffolk able to swim in some of the waters, whether it’s lakes, pools, rivers, anything,” Hoffler-Foster said.