As part of National Water Safety Month, the Valley of the Sun YMCA will offer two weeks of free swim lessons to the first 2,000 registrants at the 13 Valley of the Sun YMCA pools the weeks of May 13-23.

Registration is now open and must be done in person at a local branch. Lessons are open to non-swimmers from 6 months of age to adults.

The free swim lessons are part of the Y’s Safety Around Water program, which is designed to teach non-swimmers survival skills and engage and educate parents about the importance of water safety skills and provide more of America’s youth access to water safety lessons.

“In Arizona, the Valley of the Sun YMCA is known as the most-accessible community resource for water safety and drowning prevention,” said Jackie Gizzi, executive director of leadership development and risk management at the Valley of the Sun YMCA.

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children 1 to 4 years old and is the second leading cause of accidental death for children from 5 to 14 years old, according to experts who spoke at the YMCA press conference on April 30.

Over the last three years in Maricopa and Pinal counties alone, 51 children under the age of 12 were involved in a fatal water-related incident. That is equivalent to two full classrooms of children.

However, research shows that participation in formal water safety and swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning among children by as much as 88 percent, according to YMCA.

Through Safety Around Water, parents and caregivers are encouraged to help their children learn fundamental water safety and swimming skills.

During the eight-day course, participants are taught how to respond if they find themselves in unexpected water situations—from how to reach the water’s surface if they submerge to safely reaching a pool’s edge or exiting any body of water.

In addition to preventing drowning, water safety and swim lessons promote a lifelong enjoyment of swimming. They also encourage healthy living and the prevention of chronic diseases. Learning to enjoy activities in and around the water also nurtures social-emotional, cognitive and physical development.

In addition to offering free swim lessons, the YMCA will be distributing 13,000 Water Watcher tags provided by SRP in English and Spanish at their local branches as well as through volunteers and community partners.

“Our free swim lessons program and Water Watcher tags give us the ability to teach more children and adults in the Valley the importance of being safe around water,” Gizzi said.

The swim lessons offered through the Safety Around Water program teach children and adults that water should be fun, not feared, if you know how to stay safe in and around water. They also serve as a good introduction to the Y’s progressive swim lessons, which accommodate students of varying abilities and allow swimmers to progress among levels at their own pace.

All non-swimmers are encouraged to sign up for this free swim lesson session, as registration is first come, first serve. Registrations are accepted in person at all local YMCA branches with pools.

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