One of a parent’s worst fears is to see his or her child drown.
Indeed, research has found that nearly 4,000 Americans drown each year.
Yet to keep this fear from becoming a parent’s reality, instructors of a relatively new program called Detroit Swims are aiming to teach as many children as possible how to swim.
Apart of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, the program was created to ease parent’s fears by teaching children how to swim.
According to the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, nearly six out of ten children in Detroit will never learn how to swim. Additionally, about one hundred thousand children have never gotten into a pool as parents often keep their children away from the pool out of fear that they might drown.
“Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in adolescents,” Vanderkaay told theGrio. “It is something that people should be talking about, especially since it is something that is preventable.”
A former Michigander and University of Michigan All-American swimmer, Vanderkaay recently took time out from training to be apart of Detroit Swims. He worked with the program’s instructors to give swimming lessons to more than thirty children from across the Detroit area.
“I wanted to help out since I was home for the holiday and I think [the children] were very appreciative of the program,” he told theGrio. “We got a lot of smiles out of them. Some of the parents even came out and said they learned a lot as well. Everyone had a good time.”
Additionally, Vanderkaay said he was not only excited to have the opportunity to teach the children about the sport that he loves, but he was excited to teach within the state that he grew up. He hopes that more parents will participate in swimming lessons and also get their children involved.
“I think that every kid should have the opportunity to swim since it makes a big difference,” he said. “It has given me so much enjoyment in my life. I think this program will have a positive impact on the kids in the program. They will feel safer in the water.”
The program is especially significant for children within the African-American and Latino community.
“Statistically, researchers have figured out that if you are African-American or Latino you have a three times more likely chance of drowning,” Vanderkaay asserted to theGrio. “That is a staggering statistics to me. We ultimately want to make that statistic zero.”
According Olympic Swimming Champ Cullen Jones, research has found that many African Americans parents are far less likely than their counterparts to know how to swim to keep them as far away from pools as possible. It is just one of several reasons that generations of African-Americans never learn how to swim.
Yet programs like Detroit Swims are trying to not only educate African-American parents, but those of every ethnicity. They hope to stop the drowning statistics by educating others.
Vanderkaay said he hopes that the program will continue to expand and impact the lives of children.
“I believe the program fulfills its goal of teaching students how to swim,” he told theGrio. “It gives kids an outlet to do something else after school, maybe join a swim team or, or if not, at least they know how to swim.”