According the National Safety Council (NSC), the leading non-profit safety advocate, the USA Swimming Foundation reports nearly 90 children younger than 15 drowned in a pool from January through May 2018, and every year about 19 children drown during the July 4 holiday.
• 74% of drowning incidents for children younger than 15 between 2015 and 2017 occurred in residential locations. (NSC and USA Swimming Foundation)
• Boys younger than 15 die from drowning at twice the rate as girls. (NSC and USA Swimming Foundation)
• Emergency departments treat about 6,400 pool and injuries in children younger than 15 years old every year. (NSC and USA Swimming Foundation)
• Taking part in formal swimming lessons and water safety classes can reduce the rate of drowning by up to 88%. (Parents Preventing Childhood Drowning)
Beginning in September 2011, in its new Community Aquatic & Recreation Complex (CARC) that included the first publicly accessible swimming pools in Garrett County, Md., Garrett College began providing free American Red Cross basic swimming and water safety instruction for all kindergarten children. The Garrett County Board of Education provides school bus transportation for the children to the College campus as part of their daily schedule for a four-day active learning program during the regular school week. In addition, every October has been designated “I Can Swim” month by the Board of Garrett County Commissioners. In 2019-2020, with the COVID 19 pandemic new challenges were faced by the program partners. I Can Swim! ended early this year because of the pandemic and the closing of GC Public schools.
I CAN SWIM! PROGRAM
Every child participating in the program receives an “I Can Swim!” certificate and an activity book with a one day pass for the whole family to swim. At the conclusion of its ninth year, the program has graduated over 2,400 Garrett County kindergartners
Consider the following:
• Families with children ages 0-17, 12.7 percent were living below the poverty level in Garrett County. In the state of Maryland 9.0 percent of children are living below the poverty level.
• 53.5% of elementary school students in Garrett County received free or reduced breakfast and lunch.
By partnering with Garrett County schools and incorporating the “I Can Swim!” program into the school day, all kindergarteners have access to this lifesaving instruction, and of equal importance, it may be their first introduction to an institution of higher education.
The most critical outcome is to ensure that the “I Can Swim!” program serves families that do not have the means to provide this level of fitness and water safety education for their children.
Program costs are provided by in-kind contributions (e.g., school buses, the College pool facility itself) but others require direct funding (e.g., gasoline and bus drivers, instructors and lifeguards, and instructional materials). Currently the program costs approximately $125.00 per child for the week long water safety sessions.
To support these costs and to ensure the program’s continuation over time, each year, the Garrett College Foundation supports through charitable and philanthropic gifts from donors $23,000 of the program’s hard costs including instructors and lifeguard salaries.
To fulfill the mission of the I Can Swim! program with the understanding that drowning is the leading cause of injury related deaths in young children, Garrett College and the Garrett College Foundation along with the Garrett County Public Schools and the Country Commissioners strongly support this program. The coming academic year will continue to be a challenge but the staff of I Can Swim! and the CARC are committed to launching a new program structure. Our generous donors to this program over the years help to defray the cost of the week-long water safety program ensuring that all our Garrett County children will feel safe and secure around water. If you would like to make a gift to the program, please contact the Garrett College Foundation Office at (301) 387-3100 or go online to https://my.garrettcollege.edu/gcm/gift/personalinfo.