Program is open for enrollment; information is available here
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced the start of the seventh annual free learn-to-swim program, which will reach up to 3,000 children this summer at 26 state parks.
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "This program teaches children a valuable, life-long skill that helps keep them safe, promotes a healthy lifestyle, and gives them a connection to the outdoors. Through the support of Gov. Cuomo's ‘Connect Kids’ initiative and our partners in the learn-to-swim program, we are taking steps that can save lives.”
Since it began in 2013, the learn-to-swim program has helped nearly 18,000 children learn how to swim with instruction from State Parks lifeguards.
“Learning to swim as early as possible is important for everyone and greatly reduces the future risk of drowning,” Kulleseid said. “But it is never too late to learn.”
Each year, there are about 3,500 unintentional drowning deaths across the U.S., with about 700 of those children aged 14 or less, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For every child who dies, another five require hospital emergency care after a near-fatal incident.
With classes that started July 1, the learn-to-swim season includes hundreds of individual classes taught for all ages and levels, varying from swim lessons to water safety presentations.
Enrollment for the program remains open at many participating State Parks. Programs are free and pre-registration is required. For more information on schedules and how to sign up, visit the learn-to-swim page. Space is limited, and programs can fill up quickly.
Each swim program takes 40-45 minutes. Participants who complete lessons receive a Red Cross Learn-to-Swim Achievement Booklet and a State Parks learn-to-swim T-shirt.
The learn-to-swim program is offered through a partnership among the State Parks, the American Red Cross, the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance and the Master Pools Guild, and the Northeast Spa and Pool Association Foundation.
The Pool and Hot Tub Alliance and the Master Pools Guild, and the Northeast Spa & Pool Association Foundation annually donate $15,000 to offset staff and program costs to enable State Parks to offer the free swim classes. The American Red Cross provides free training to State Park lifeguards to obtain water safety instructor certification, allowing them to teach swimming classes. The free learn-to-swim program also builds on the instruction already offered at state park facilities as part of programs arranged by summer camps, municipalities and other partner organizations.
"For more than 100 years, the American Red Cross has taught millions of people to swim and be 'water smart' as part of our commitment to preparedness. Our ongoing partnership with New York State Parks helps keep families safe while they enjoy swimming, a great recreational sport. We encourage everyone to be water smart this summer by learning how to stay safe and making good choices in, on, and around the water,” said Mallory Brown, executive director of the American Red Cross of the Mohawk Valley Eastern NY Region
"The NESPA Foundation is proud to be a long-time supporter of NYS's learn-to-swim program," said NESPA Foundation President John Lochren. "The pool and spa industry and our foundation believe strongly that learning to swim is a critical part of overall water safety. Being in and near water is not only a source of great enjoyment for many, but it is great for your physical and mental health, as well. We are pleased to continue our relationship with the New York Parks in educating the next generation of swimmers."
The learn-to-swim program expands the governor's commitment to serving more youth at State Parks. In 2016, Cuomo announced the “Connect Kids to Parks” program, which provides free day-use park entry to fourth-grade students and their families, and offers field trip grants for all grade levels in Title 1 public schools. Over the past three years, “Connect Kids to Parks” has welcomed over 250,000 students to state parks.
State Parks oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which were visited by 74 million people last year. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.parks.ny.gov.