Donations help fund YMCA of Greater Charlotte swim lessons, but they still need to hire 200 lifeguards

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 5:52 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - With some schools already out for summer, the demand for swim lessons is high.

Free swim lessons will not be happening at Mecklenburg County public pools due to a lifeguard shortage.

Swim lessons are being offered through the YMCA, but right now, they are already on a waitlist at each branch location in Charlotte.

Drug testing company Quest Diagnostics is stepping in to help with funding.

The company is donating $9,400 dollars to help fund week-long summer camps for kids who cannot afford them and to provide more than 70 free swim lessons.

The funding will go to the YMCA’s Harris, Lake Norman and Lowe’s locations.

According to a spokesperson for Quest Diagnostics:

“Quest’s goal when working with the YMCA was to support the Charlotte community’s transition back to normal, healthy routines. We understand that summer activities, including day camps and swim lessons, organized through a community’s local YMCA provides education and access to healthy lifestyle choices to children and families. Supporting access to swim lessons and water safety education ahead of the potentially dangerous summer months, is an initiative both Quest and the YMCA are passionate about. Knowing how to swim can not only be a matter of life or death for a child, but it can also impact future quality of life, by improving physical health and giving a child confidence around pools, lakes and other bodies of water.”

Now all the YMCA has to do is fill lifeguard positions.

The aquatics director says learning to swim is more important this summer than ever because many kids who should have already learned did not because of the pandemic.

“We did miss a huge chunk of swim lessons and water safety classes last summer,” Aquatics Director Ame Guy told WBTV. “We would’ve normally gone into apartment complexes across Charlotte and taught over 1500 kids how to swim for free, and we didn’t get to do that this past summer.”

The YMCA of Greater Charlotte is trying to make up for lost time by offering swim lessons to anyone signed up for summer camp, in addition to private and group lessons.

According to the CDC, 4,000 people die each year from drowning.

It’s the leading cause of death for children ages one to four, after birth defects.

There are also racial disparities.

According to the CDC, African Americans between 5 and 19 drown in pools at rates 5.5 times higher than white people.

“As soon as they take off that life vest they’re going to slip below the surface of that water in less than 10 seconds,” Guy said. “It’s not like the movies. It goes undetected. It’s silent and quick.”

Guy says they are grateful for donations but they are still working around the clock to recruit 200 more lifeguards.

10-year-old Jeremiah Archie says being able to swim makes him feel confident.

“I feel good,” Archie said. “I felt like I was cool. I’m with my friends now.”

Hiring more lifeguards would mean they can offer more swim lessons to give as many kids as possible the feeling Jeremiah has.

“I get to go underwater and do cannonballs,” he said.

The YMCA is typically finished with lifeguard training sessions by Memorial Day weekend, but this year they are continuing to offer them.

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