INDIANAPOLIS — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis has seen a drop in the number of kids taking swim lessons.
“Last year we took a huge hit on our numbers. We were closed down for a few months and we had to pivot and really figure out a way to serve our community and keep water safety in the forefront,” Chelsea Walls, association director of YMCA aquatic programming, said.
In a typical year, there are 15,000 people in swim programs at YMCA of Greater Indianapolis locations, but due to COVID-19 shutdowns, it decreased to 5,000.
As part of the Y’s commitment to reduce drowning rates and keep kids safe in the water, nine centers are providing scholarships for swim instruction and water safety to children from underserved communities.
“Swimming is not just for summer, it’s not just an extracurricular activity it’s a lifelong skill,” Walls said. “We want to make sure everyone is safe in and around water. In Indiana, we have a lot of neighborhood pools, retention ponds and we really want to keep that water safety in the focus not just during the typical summer months but all year round.”
Aside from swimming skills, the programs also teach children to ask for permission before getting in the water, what to do if you slip or fall or get pushed in, and how to get out safely.
“I know we are a ways out for summer but that is really just around the corner,” Jessica McCowan said.
She enrolled her daughter, Kendall, in private swim lessons to help her build confidence.
“She’s one of those fearless kids. So you get around water, you get excited and I want her to practice the safety ahead of time so when she needs it it’s a little bit more comfortable for her,” McCowan said.
In order to maintain a healthy environment while COVID-19 is still present, the Y is increasing the number of parent/child swim classes, practicing social distancing in and around the water, and having all staff and volunteers wear face masks or face shields.
To learn how to qualify for financial assistance contact one of these nine YMCA locations: