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Drown proofing the Okanagan

Free swim classes offered in Kelowna provide students with basic swimming skills

It’s probably the most important skill you can learn and more and more school kids are being taught how to swim through a partnership between the YMCA and the Across the Lake Swim.

The YMCA Okanagan Swims Program has shown exponential growth since its inception in 2012.

At that time, the Across the Lake Swim Society and the YMCA of Okanagan worked together to create a program that introduces children to water safety and provide basic swimming skills. Over that first year, 335 Grade 3 students were given free swim classes, helping to fulfill the program mission of drown proofing the Okanagan.

With the school year wrapped up, the count is in for 2017 and it is close to ten times as many lessons as in 2012. In this last year alone, the YMCA taught 2,800 children from from Lake Country to Peachland, raising the total since 2012 to 6,650 children.

Each student receives three lessons as well as school bus transportation to and from their schools, all free thanks to funds raised from the Interior Savings Across the Lake Swim. In 2017 the program was expanded to include both Grade 3 and 4 students.

“I really believe that all kids in this area must have the ability to be safe for recreational use of our beautiful lakes and rivers,” said senior aquatic manager Randall Wight at the YMCA.

“These lessons often lead to a lifetime of swimming for Okanagan residents and visitors.”

The future vision is to increase funding to send even more grades for free lessons each year and expand the program to other municipalities and school districts, according to the YMCA.

The Central Okangan School District is another key partner in the program, helping organize the program with the YMCA.

“That’s really what it’s all about, working together to drown proof our children by giving them, at a minimum, the capability of basic swimming, and for other kids, advancing their swimming education” said Wight.

Registration is open for the Swim Across the Lake event as well as the Okanagan Swims program.

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