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Red Cross Offers Free Swim Lessons and Promotes Water Safety

Red Cross Offers Free Swim Lessons and Promotes Water Safety

by Jill Palmer, Executive Director, Florida Southern Gulf Chapter, American Red Cross

Thanks in part to a recent grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, and in partnership with Lee County Parks and Recreation, the American Red Cross Aquatics Centennial Campaign will again offer free swim lessons to local youth, ages 4 to 11, at the Tice Community Pool this summer.

In Lee County, 32 children have died from drowning in the last 10 years, as reported by the Florida Department of Children and Families. In the United States, drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children between the ages of 1 and 4, and second for children under 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency room care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

This is especially tragic because in nearly every case, those deaths could have been prevented. One “layer of protection” against drowning is learning to swim. Research suggests that participation in formal swim lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning death by 88 percent. But swimming lessons are only the first step. Others include:

·  Preventing unsupervised access to water, such as four-sided fencing around home pools and hot tubs, and locks and alarms on doors (including doggie doors) and windows leading to water.

·  Providing close and constant supervision to children in or near water.

·  Insisting that children, inexperienced swimmers, and all boaters wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

·  Always swimming in a lifeguarded area.

The Aquatics Centennial Campaign was launched in 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of the American Red Cross adding drowning prevention to its mission in 1914. Due largely to these education and outreach efforts, and over the course of the first 33 years, the drowning rate was cut in half – from 10.4 drownings to 5.2 per 100,000 – and millions of Americans were safely enjoying themselves in, on and around water. The work continued through the years, and the national drowning rate declined steadily and has been about 1.13 per 100,000 per year over the last decade.

While great progress has been made, this still translates to approximately 3,700 needless and preventable drowning deaths each year. The Centennial Campaign is putting a renewed effort in helping further drive down the drowning rate, especially in underprivileged communities where the number of drownings is comparatively high.

“The Centennial Campaign has made it possible for children in and around the Tice Community to take swimming lessons and learn water safety who might not have been able to afford the cost for the last several years,” said Nancy Apperson, senior supervisor with Lee County Parks and Recreation. “Last summer alone, over 200 lessons were taught along with many adult/parent water safety education classes, and we hope for a great deal more this summer.”

To learn more about being safer in and around water and about the Centennial Campaign, visit

For details about the program at Tice Community Pool, including how to register, visit

This summer, Florida Weekly has graciously allowed us, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, to spotlight the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s 2019 competitive grant cycle.  Funds made available for these grants are graciously given by donors through Field of Interest Funds. Many of these donors are deceased and have left instructions to the Foundation on the causes they care about and then rely on the Foundation team to address the communities’ greatest needs within the established criteria by the donor.  We have asked these grantees to share their stories. We are pleased to partner with these change-makers.


The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $6.8 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $78.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit


Southwest Florida Community Foundation
Southwest Florida Community Foundation

Our ambition is a more vibrant community that will continually address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties in Southwest Florida. We invite you to join our family and invest in the community with us!