COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -- In response to the alarming statistic that nine people drown each day in the United States, the USA Swimming Foundation and the YMCA of the USA recently partnered to provide free/low-cost swim lessons for at-risk children who are enrolled in their school's free or reduced-cost lunch program. The partnership is a local implementation of Make a Splash, the USA Swimming Foundation's national anti-drowning initiative. Communities involved in the collaborative education program include Raleigh-Durham, NC; San Jose, CA; Philadelphia; and most recently Omaha, NE.

"The USA Swimming Foundation and the YMCA partnered in an effort to bridge the gap between water safety education and activation. Research tells us that if a child doesn't learn to swim by the third grade, they likely never will," says Chris LaBianco, chief development officer for the USA Swimming Foundation. "Swimming is more than a recreational skill, it's a skill that can save lives, and it is vitally important that we provide this opportunity to kids from all socio-economic groups at an early age."

The YMCA of the USA will provide the instructors and pool time, while the USA Swimming Foundation will back the program financially through its Sponsor a Swim Lesson fundraising arm of its Make a Splash campaign. Both organizations have dedicated $30,000 each to support the program.

"The YMCA Learn to Swim program is designed to teach water safety skills and basic stroke mechanics. Most children who participate in these lessons develop skills to become safe in and around the water," says Mike Eubank, program director, national competitive sports events, for YMCA of the USA. "I'm thrilled that through this partnership, we are taking an active approach to educating children on the health benefits and enjoyment of a lifelong skill like swimming."

Make a Splash water safety curriculum will be available for students at 10 to 20 schools in each community. Children will have access to one session of eight swimming lessons for a nominal fee of $5 to $10. Children who do not participate in the reduced lunch program are also encouraged to participate and can apply for financial assistance at the YMCA.