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Detroit Swims: Michigan youth float, paddle, and glide to confidence

By: Caitlin Cruickshank, program investment & marketing intern

Michigan is paradise for boaters, fishermen, and watersports lovers. Framed by four of the Great Lakes and containing more than 65,000 in-land lakes and ponds, water is all around.

Spending time by the water is a source of summer fun and adventure, but also comes with grim consequences; according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020, 173 people died by drowning in Michigan.

“Teaching youth the skills necessary to be safe around water is a social responsibility, and the Y has the experience, expertise, and capacity to meet the need,” said Susan Walters-Klenke, fund development director at the Detroit YMCA.

It is especially important to provide these services to those who are disproportionately affected by water injuries and deaths. According to USA Swimming, 79 percent of children in families with household income less than $50,000 have no or low swimming ability.

Through the Detroit Swims program, the YMCA connects children from low-income areas to basic swim instruction.

A $25,000 grant from The Children’s Foundation helps Detroit Swims to address the two main barriers to swim participation: transportation and cost. All Detroit Swims students receive swim instruction at no cost, and the Detroit Swims bus provides transportation to increase access for families.

In the 2021-2022 program year, Detroit Swims provided services to 275 youth. The program engaged three schools and nine community organization partners during that timeframe. By the end of the program, participants learn skills of being able to swim 5 or more yards independently without assistance and being able to jump into deep water and swim back to the poolside with ease.

In addition to simple safety skills, children learn what to do in case of emergency and how to perform water rescues. This gives children confidence and empowers them that they are capable of learning and growth. Detroit Swims reaches deeper than basic swimming skills–it addresses issues of health, fitness, safety, self-esteem, and well-being that youth in Michigan need more than ever.

Help us improve the health and wellness of more children and families.

You can help us reach more children and families by making a gift to The Children’s Foundation. Click here to make your gift.

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