According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about ten people die each day from unintentional drowning. Sadly, one in five of those people who die from drowning are children aged 14 and younger. And for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries which can lead to severe, permanent neurological damage.
With the opening of the brand new Community Aquatic & Recreation Complex (CARC) on the campus of Garrett College and the first publicly accessible swimming pools in Garret County in September of 2011, interested community members, college staff and the Garrett County Board of Education came together to form a class teaching swimming proficiency and water safety goals to area kindergarten children. Called “I Can Swim!”, this annual program, taught using American Red Cross standards, brings local kindergarten children from area schools to the complex to help prevent drowning deaths in our community.
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 as “I Can Swim” month by the Board of Garrett County Commissioners.
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. The program has graduated over 2,250 Garrett County kindergartners and in 2015 held an alumni event featuring a parade of past students and including free swimming for alumni and their families.
By partnering with Garrett County schools and incorporating the “I Can Swim!” program into the school day, all kindergartners have access to this life saving importance, and of equal importance, it may be their first introduction to an institution of higher learning. The most critical outcome is to ensure that the 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 for school bus drivers, instructors and lifeguards, and instructional materials). Currently the program costs approximately $125 per child for the week-long water safety lessons.
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.
Garrett College and the Garrett College Foundation along with the Garrett County Public Schools and the County Commissioners strongly support this program. Our generous donors to this program over the years help to defray the cost of the safety program ensuring that all our Garrett County children will feel safe and secured 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.garrettcolege.edu/gcm/gift/personalinfo.