SPRINGBORO, Ohio - Antwaun Brown Jr. is having an unforgettable summer in the water.
“This is fun,” the seven-year-old said with a grin.
Antwaun, his twin sister, Javionna, and their older sister, A’marie, 9, spent part of their summer in the swimming pool at the Coffman Family YMCA outside Dayton.
“I wish we could stay here a little longer,” A’marie added.
For many people, relaxing at a pool is a common summertime activity. But for these Miamisburg kids, this is their first time in a pool. Their father, Antwaun Brown, signed them up for the free water safety program, which is made possible by the YMCA and PNC Bank.
Since 2015, PNC has supported the Dayton SPLASH program in nine regional locations. Overall, more than 1,500 children have learned basic water safety, including swimming and life-saving skills.
The YMCA of Greater Dayton held a Safety Around Water Week in June 2016. It included basic swimming skills program for kids from kindergarten to sixth grade who had little or no swimming experience.
“Even with adults around watching their children, a child can drown in the blink of an eye,” said Michelle Kaye, PNC’s director of client and community relations in Dayton. “It’s important that parents understand the importance of swimming and water safety so they can take all necessary precautions.”
From free swim lessons to preschool programs and other initiatives, PNC supports numerous YMCA centers throughout its market because of the positive impact in communities. The YMCA of Greater Dayton, for example, provided nearly $6 million in financial assistance and community subsidy in 2015. It is also the largest childcare provider in the region.
YMCA organizers said they got involved because everyone should learn to be safe in and around the water. During the first several weeks of the 2016 swimming season, there were at least five near-drowning incidents in the Dayton area, said Bambi Puckett, executive director of the West Carrollton YMCA.
“This program gives children an opportunity to learn more about safety around water and become more aware if they’re at a backyard pool,” Puckett said. “With our program, a lot of kids are learning where pool levels drop off into the deep end. They’re taught to get into a recovery position if they sense they’re in trouble in the water.”
She said some children don’t have swimsuits so they wear basketball shorts in the pool.
On the first day, these kids would put their feet in the pool. By the end of the week, they were in the pool. We want them to continue and learn how to swim.
“Without PNC, we wouldn’t be able to provide free swim lessons for the Dayton community,” said Dale Brunner, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Dayton. “The area we serve is West Carrollton, a lower income, blue-collar area. As a result, a lot of children are not exposed to the water.”
Brunner said the program has been so successful that the YMCA has had several parents ask about signing up themselves for swim lessons.
“Their fear of water is carrying over to their kids,” he said. “Everybody should learn how to swim.”
Jodi Schaaf, whose 4-year-old son Frank was in the program, said: “It’s been good for us because it’s been an opportunity to get instruction. He’s had a chance to learn about the water and do something a little more formal with no cost to us.”
Frank, the youngest of seven children, loved being around the certified instructors and lifeguards. Asked about the best part, he said: “Jumping in the water!"
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