These programs offer financial help to families whose kids need swim lessons

Drowning remains No. 2 cause of accidental death in kids in US, numbers show

By Carolina Cardona - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Living in Florida, where pools and lake are popular, Sadie's father wasn't going to take any chances.

"We have a little pool so they can swim there ... and around pools quite often, especially living in Florida, so we wanted to make sure that they're safe," Ted Juras said about his decision to make sure his two children were comfortable with water.

Last summer, Juras put his now-2-year-old daughter in Little Aquatics swim lessons. The founder of Little Aquatics, Stefanie Phelps, who started her first company providing swimming lessons 15 years ago, said children under the age of 5 are at higher risk for drowning. She suggests children begin lessons as babies.

"When we start kids at 6 months old and they're still in that infant stage, they're learning how to float on their back, they're learning breath control and they're learning, if they ever fall into a pool, how to roll onto their back and float until they get to a wall," Phelps said. 

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According to the USA Swimming Foundation, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death of children in the United States.

"Those kind of scary stories, you even see them on news, but they can actually hit close to home," Juras said.

He said he knows of cases he's heard on the news, as well as from family members and friends who have experienced a parent's worst nightmare.

The USA Swimming Foundation also said that 64 percent of African-Americans, 45 percent of Hispanics and 40 percent of Caucasians can't swim or have very little ability to do so. That's why Phelps partners with nonprofit organizations to help those children develop the important skills.

"There are a lot of amazing programs in the area that will provide financial assistance, from covering some of the costs of lessons to covering the full cost of lessons," Phelps said.

Phelps works with Cata's Little Swimmers, a foundation started by María Mendoza after her 15-month-old baby girl Catalina drowned in the family's pool.

For information on programs that provide financial assistance for swimming lessons, visit the websites for Little Aquatics and the USA Swimming Foundation.

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