To support the critical need of swim safety and drown prevention in Florida, the First Coast YMCA announced today a donation of $100,000 from health care leader Florida Blue. The support will provide free water safety lessons for hundreds of children on the First Coast. It is a program the Y is able to offer for free based on children/schools eligibility in the free/reduced lunch programs. This program is funded through grants, partnerships and our Annual Fundraising Campaign.
As a leader in water safety and swim instruction, the Y’s Safety Around Water program is designed to teach children how to reach the water’s surface if submerged, safely reach the edge of a pool, exit any body of water and respond to unexpected water situations. Research shows that participation in formal water safety and swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning among children 1 to 4 years of age.
“Every child deserves access to water safety resources,” said YMCA of Florida’s First Coast President and CEO Eric Mann. “We thank Florida Blue for this incredibly generous support of the Safety Around Water initiative. This gift enables us to teach lifesaving water safety skills to more than 800 additional children in our North Florida community alone. Building a stronger, safer and healthier community is an ongoing effort that cannot be achieved without partnerships like this.”
In recent years, Florida Blue has contributed more than $700,000 to support various YMCA initiatives across the state of Florida, and has stayed actively involved in improving overall health and wellness for people of all ages and backgrounds. Here on the First Coast, the company also played a significant role in helping the Y open the Florida Blue Wellness Center at the Winston Family Y along with the Healthy Living Center, a comprehensive resource for all local residents to receive programs that address health concerns in surrounding neighborhoods.
“The quality of life in Jacksonville is personified by its natural resources,” said Florida Blue Market President Darnell Smith. “Every child should be able to explore and enjoy the full, life-enabling energy of water. Learning how to swim and be safe around water will enable parents and children to conquer fears and embrace life more abundantly.”
Susan Towler, Florida Blue executive director of corporate social responsibility, has long been passionate about bringing this life skill to children and their families. “Drowning is a preventable tragedy, and we have a responsibility to help parents understand the importance of teaching themselves and their children how to survive in water. Learning lifesaving water safety skills is a solution that helps ensure children can grow up strong and healthy.”
The YMCA has offered swim lessons on the First Coast since the 1950s. Safety Around Water is offered at all pools at all First Coast YMCA locations, plus the Galimore Center and Calhoun Center pools in St. Augustine.