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Valley YMCA offers free swim classes for National Water Safety Month

The Valley of the Sun YMCA is committing to offer free swim lessons this summer for 1,000 people at 10 Valley of the Sun YMCA pools for the week of May 17-21. (KTAR News photo/Griselda Zetino)

PHOENIX — May is National Water Safety Month and a Valley nonprofit is making a big splash to keep people safe in and around water this summer.

The Valley of the Sun YMCA is offering free swim lessons to the first 1,000 people who register for classes to be held May 17-21 at any of the nonprofits’ pools.

“Anybody from the age of 6 months through adult is eligible for these free swim lessons,” Bryan Madden, president and CEO of the Valley of the Sun YMCA, said at a press conference Monday. “All you have to do is go to your local YMCA, walk in the door and ask, ‘I’d like to learn how to swim, can you help me?’”

The free swim lessons are part of the nonprofit’s Safety Around Water program, which is meant to teach non-swimmer survival skills as well as engage and educate parents about the importance of water safety.

Madden made the announcement at the Legacy Foundation Christ-Town YMCA. The backdrop was a pool and 36 chairs with either a pink or blue balloon attached to each. It represented the number of child drownings in Maricopa and Pinal counties over the past three years.

So far this year, there have been six drownings in the Valley. Two of those were children under the age of 5.

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children 1 to 4 years old and the second leading cause of accidental death for children from 5 to 14 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Melissa Sutton, president of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, said swim lessons like the ones the Valley of the Sun YMCA is offering give children “a chance to save themselves before help arrives.”

“What we need the public to know as we head into our hot summer is our little ones are quick and curious, and they love water and they’re drawn to it,” Sutton said. “By putting as many layers of protection in place…you’re buying yourself much-needed time to find your child before tragedy strikes.”

Some of the layers of protection she recommended include CPR classes, wearing a life jacket, adding fencing to pools and designating a water watcher.

“Adults are drowning at two times the rate of our kids, so those rules apply to us too,” Sutton said.

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