IRON MOUNTAIN – Northern Lights YMCA Dickinson Center’s annual third grade swim program is underway, with nearly 300 children expected to participate throughout the month.
The program, in its fourth year, is offered free to all third grade students in the area and is fully funded for the next several years thanks to support from the 100+ Women Who Care and the YMCA Annual Campaign Fund.
“Living in a region of lakes and rivers, water safety is always a top concern,” YMCA Aquatics Director John Leech said. “We believe strongly in teaching our children how to swim. And third grade is an ideal age to have these kids come through the program.”
Leech, a swimming instructor/coach with the YMCA for more than 10 years, says third graders are at an age where they can grasp the concepts being taught and have typically already been exposed to water. He added that it’s a good age too for those who may have had a negative experience in the water because that fear is easier to overcome when caught early rather than later in life.
Every year, fatal drowning remains among the leading causes of unintentional injury-related death according to the Centers for Disease Control. Participation in formal swimming lessons greatly reduces that risk.
“Where we live, it’s just common sense that our kids need to know how to swim,” Leech said. “We are thrilled each year to provide this service to our community, and we are grateful for the support we received from the 100+ Women Who Care and those individuals and families who donate to the YMCA Annual Campaign Fund.”
Each class of third graders receives five 40-minute lessons as part of the YMCA program. The program runs into April. In addition to the swim lessons, Leech’s staff also introduces the kids to boat safety, lifejacket fit, proper water attire as well as sun and heat safety.
The children taking part in the program this spring come from Woodland Elementary School in Kingsford, North Elementary School in Iron Mountain, Norway Elementary School, Bishop Baraga Catholic School in Iron Mountain, Holy Spirit Catholic School in Norway, North Dickinson Elementary School in Felch and Niagara Schools in Niagara, Wis. New to the program this year is Florence Elementary School in Florence, Wis.
This year’s third grade program will be the last in the current pool, as construction on the YMCA’s new state of the art aquatics center is set to begin in late April as part of the Y’s ongoing $4.5 million Capital Campaign project.
The YMCA’s Annual Campaign Fund drive is currently underway. Supporters can stop by the Y or call 774-4076 for information on how to donate. Along with the third grade swim program, YMCA Annual Campaign dollars provide programming and membership assistance to hundreds in the community.