Teaching kids a life-saving skill and having a blast

Published: Jul. 1, 2014 at 3:09 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 30, 2014 at 9:13 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

It can happen at a neighborhood pool, a pond, on the lake or at the beach. Each year, thousands of children drown.

In the last six weeks, WBTV has reported several drownings in our viewing area. Many of the victims are children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death for kids. For African American children, rates are higher.

The Grier Heights community is working to turn those numbers around and it's a very personal cause.

In  April, 19-year-old Demonta Gaither drowned in a neighborhood pond behind Randolph Road.

Gaither did not know how to swim, but now his younger brother is taking swim lessons through a program sponsored by Crossroads Corporation in partnership with Charlotte Aquatics.

Last week, was the first swim lesson and first time in a pool for some of the children.

"It is really important that these children get swim lessons and make themselves safe around the water," said Kelly Gaines, who owns Charlotte Aquatics.

The lessons are free and transportation is provided. It's essential for parents who don't have access to transportation or have an irregular work schedule.

It's part of the Crossroads mission -- to support and revitalize the neighborhood through programs for children.

"It's going really really well. Already the kids have benefited," said Crossroads employee Bekah Bowen, who also lives in Grier Heights.

The swim program is her passion, but it almost didn't happen this year.

Then Gaither drowned, and Crossroads knew it had to continue.

"It affected us all. A lot of the volunteers worked with him along with his family in a variety of programs, so it hit home for us," said volunteer Tijua Robinson.

It's satisfying for the adults and even more so for the children, who loved splashing around in the water.

They are learning a life-saving skill and having a blast at the same time.

Here is more information on swim lessons sponsored by Mecklenburg County in July and August:

  • Ray's Splash Planet, 215 N. Sycamore Street
  • West Charlotte High School, 2219 Senior Drive
  • Cordelia Outdoor Pool, 2100 N. Davidson Street
  • Double Oaks Outdoor Pool, 1200 Newland Road

Families interested in participating at Ray's Splash Planet and West Charlotte High School are required to attend a pre-registration event on Tuesday, July 1 at Ray's Splash Planet. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. Both children and guardians must be present at the event. Applications will not be accepted after 6:30 p.m. on July 1. A public lottery will be conducted to fill registration.

Participants selected for the program will choose the location at either Ray's Splash Planet or West Charlotte High School for Saturday morning lessons in July and August.

Families interested in participating at the outdoor pools can register every Wednesday beginning at 11 a.m. for the following week only. Registration is week-by-week and must be done in person. Children under 18 interested in registering for swim lessons must be accompanied by an adult. All reservations are first come, first served. Spots are limited.

Copyright 2014 WBTV. All rights reserved.