Thursday, June 20, 2013
McKinney takes part in worldwide swimming lesson to raise awareness about drowning
Accidental drowning is the leading cause of death for kids four and under.
MCKINNEY As children arrived for their swim lessons Tuesday morning, it seemed a typical summer day at Juanita Maxfield Aquatic Center in McKinney.
Little did they know, that day's instruction would be part of the world's largest swimming lesson. Water parks, public pools and other aquatic facilities around the globe held a lesson simultaneously at 10 a.m. central time.
"It's to get people more aware -- accidental drowning is actually the number one cause of death for children four and younger," said Beth Hammann, McKinney's aquatic recreation specialist. "We are just trying to get the community involved in swimming and get their kids registered for swim lessons."
Hammann said Tuesday's participation was likely the city's first-ever shot at being part of a world record. Kids at Juanita Maxfield and around the world learned certain skills required under WLSL parameters, with pictures and parent/witness signatures proving their participation.
More than 24,000 participants had registered worldwide, Hammann said - enough for another mark in the Guinness Book of World Records, which could list at least the McKinney facility in the entry.
Water-safety and training organizations teamed up in producing the WLSL to build awareness about teaching children to swim to better prevent accidental drowning, which is the second-leading cause of unintended, injury-related death for children ages 1-14, according to a website dedicated to the event.
The website states that if a child doesn't learn to swim by third grade, he or she likely never will. It says the WLSL was created as a platform to help community aquatic facilities work with larger organizations in telling that story.
Texas had the most participants of any state, and Brazil had the most outside the U.S., Hammann said. The WLSL site listed that 100 different facilities around Texas participated in the event.
"I think swim lessons are good just because it's so hot and it's something so easy to do," said Mike Jones, manager at Juanita Maxfield. "It makes it safe for parents to take their kids to the pool and lake, but I feel like it's a good skill for everyone to have."
McKinney has community interest in aquatic programs, Jones said, but little space to expand. From June through August, Juanita Maxfield offers five 2-week sessions, with eight lessons in each session. Residents pay $46, non-residents $62 -- both of which Hammann said are as cheap as about anywhere in the Metroplex.
Children also can receive lessons at the McKinney Senior Recreation Center pool year-round, but only in the afternoons. They share that pool with senior center members.
The McKinney Community Development Corporation is holding a public input meeting Thursday evening at McKinney Performing Arts Center to garner citizens' opinion on building a larger, more accessible aquatic facility. The idea has been thrown around by city officials for several years, but an actual facility is yet to materialize.
"We would really like to see the aquatic program expanded," Hammann said. "We would love to have a larger facility where we could get competitive swimming, more lessons year-round and more times available."
She added that limited space doesn't hamper on the quality of swim lessons, and that Juanita Maxfield employs "very passionate staff" who double as instructors and lifeguards. Fourteen instructors - seven primary and seven aides - allow the facility to keep its class sizes between two to six people.
Hammann said participation in Tuesday's global event could spark further expansion in coming years. And make swim lessons even more typical in McKinney.
"It would just be a really positive thing to see more people, of all ages, be able to come swim more frequently," she said.
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