Five kids under the age of 10 are battling the depths of Okanagan Lake and showing their swimming prowess by front-crawling across our own great lake.
All five are currently training with the YMCA Okanagan and will swim in the Interior Savings Across the Lake Swim next week, Saturday July 19th, accompanied by a YMCA Lifeguard.
The Across the Lake Swim Society (ATLSS) uses the event and other work throughout our area to show their commitment to drown-proofing the Okanagan, especially when it comes to teaching kids to swim.
“Since 2012, the Across the Lake Swim Society has been funding a swim program to teach young kids life-saving water safety skills,” explains ATLSS President and Interior Savings Across the Lake Swim Race Director, Peter Rudd.
“We believe every child should have access to swim lessons, but the reality is that many do not have the opportunity. Our funding provides free swim lessons to every third grader in School District #23 from Peachland to Lake Country.”
All five brave swimmers worked hard in the YMCA Okanagan Swims program. An initiative that provides kids with 2.5 hours of instruction and 2.5 hours of water activity, giving them a chance to master basic skills in the water with the objective to ensure they are safer in backyard pools, creeks, rivers and lakes.
The Lifesaving Society reports drowning as the second leading cause of preventable deaths in kids under 10 years old, and with the high drowning stats in the Okanagan that Castanet shared this week, this program hopes to addresses an important need in the community.
“This is an immediate issue in our community since we live in such a water populated area. If these kids learn early, they will know what to do if they have an unexpected fall into deep water, now or as they grow into adults.” says Desiree Henke, Swim Instructor for the Okanagan Swims Program at H2O.
“It is amazing to see these kids build confidence in and around the water,”
For three of the kids Graeme Haw, 8yrs old, Dray Rolleston, 8, and Landon Tew, 9, the program gave them the confidence to move on to their next goal of swimming across Okanagan Lake, a difficult 2.1 kilometre swim.
“I think it will take me an hour and a half,” says a confident Rolleston. Followed by Tew who felt he could knock it off in an hour and 40 minutes.
“We are all excited to see them cross the finish line,” added Peter Rudd.
YMCA of Okanagan and Across the Lake Swim Society have a collective goal to increase the number of kids accessing swim instruction every year.
This past year YMCA Okanagan Swims provided instruction to close to 1400 kids; up from 800 the previous year.