SMITHFIELD– Johnston Health Foundation may be best known for its patient assistance programs. But for the second summer in a row, it’s helped a group of kids at HealthQuest Fitness & Wellness Center learn how to swim and be safe around the water.
During an eight-week-long camp that wrapped up Aug. 10, teammates at HealthQuest taught swim lessons and water safety to 75 elementary- and middle-school-age children from My Kids Club of Selma.
At the start of camp, only 10 of the 75 children felt comfortable in the pool, says Ashley Scott, director at the center. By the end, however, all but five of the children could either float on their backs or put their faces in the water and swim. In fact, nine qualified for the swim team or swim club.
Swim instructor Lauren Gregg says 11-year-old Sage Brown of Wilsons Mills was among those who showed tremendous growth. “She couldn’t swim and frequently used the word ‘can’t,’” Gregg says. “But by the end of the summer, she could swim half the length of the pool.”
Sage loves swimming so much she wants to take more lessons, says her mother, Ciji Dobbin. “I’m excited she’s so excited,” she says. “Every week she tells me something new she learned.” In September when the family went on a cruise, Sage showed her mother how she could dog- paddle. “She’s inspired me to take swim lessons,” Dobbin adds. “I just turned 40, but it’s never too late to learn.”
Lynn Stanley, interim director of My Kids Club, says parents appreciate the lessons their children learn during camp. “While they may not all learn how to swim, they do learn water safety and how they can save themselves from drowning,” she says.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of death for children. In the United States, more children ages 1 to 4 die from drowning than any other cause of death. And for children ages 5 to 14, drowning is the second leading cause of after motor vehicle crashes.