Waterproof Jacksonville Expands, Keeping 1,500 Kids Safe in the Water this Year

May 27, 2014  
In a city famous for its river, beaches and parks system, safety around the water is essential to enjoying all that Jacksonville has to offer. This summer, as part of Mayor Alvin Brown’s People+Parks Connection, free water safety education and swim lessons will be available to more qualifying families than ever.

Mayor Brown announced plans to expand the citywide drowning prevention campaign, called Waterproof Jacksonville, May 3 at the Cecil Aquatic Center. The program will offer free lessons to an estimated 1,500 children this summer, including students attending summer school at Woodland Acres Elementary, as well as to 150 dependents of active military personnel.

“Waterproof Jacksonville is about nothing less than saving lives,” said Mayor Brown. “The ability to swim is absolutely essential in a state like Florida, especially here in Jacksonville. Our state has the nation’s highest drowning rate among children ages 14 and under. That needs to change, and that’s what we’re trying to do with Waterproof Jacksonville.”
Mayor Brown announced plans to expand the citywide drowning prevention campaign, called Waterproof Jacksonville, May 3 at the Cecil Aquatic Center
The program was first launched by the City of Jacksonville in 2012 to promote water safety and prevent accidental drowning, a leading cause of death for children in Florida. Safe Kids Northeast Florida, the City of Jacksonville and several recognized swim organizations joined forces last year to provide free swim lessons to youth throughout Duval County who may not otherwise be able to afford them. To find a participating location, visit jaxparks.com and click the Waterproof Jacksonville link under “Aquatics”.

This year’s lessons are part of a unique expansion of Waterproof Jacksonville made possible by a $25,000 donation from Jacksonville attorney Wayne Hogan. His donation will help pay for the JaxParks Summer Night Lights program as well as enable JaxParks to double the number of free swim lessons provided this summer.

Hogan, along with Woodland Acres Elementary School Principal Timothy Feagins, City Council Member Bill Bishop, and representatives from the Police Athletic League, JaxParks and Safe Kids Northeast Florida, joined Mayor Brown for the announcement, which recognized Hogan’s donation and highlighted a new partnership with Duval County Public Schools. A series of four video PSAs is available for distribution.

To date, the partners have committed to providing beginner swim lessons to about 1,500 children, including about 400 Woodland Acres students and 150 military dependents. The Police Athletic League is funding swim lessons for 200 PAL participants. JaxParks, through funding assistance from Safe Kids Northeast Florida, is offering lessons for about 450 youth. The YMCA will provide lessons for another 300, including 50 military dependents. Other partners are also providing lessons. Participants must provide proof of financial need based on participation in the free and reduced lunch program.

The swimming organizations in this partnership are First Coast YMCA; Flying Fish Swim Team; Kerry Wick Swimming; Mandarin Aquatic Club; Safety First Swim; School of Swimming; Southside Athletic Club; Swimming Safari Swim School and JaxParks. Safe Kids Northeast Florida and Garner Pools provided financial support. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, in a partnership with USA Swimming, will promote water safety during community events and encourage more minorities to learn to swim. Accidental drowning is the leading cause of death in Florida for children under age 5 and the second leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-14. The accidental drowning rate for black children is three times that of white children.

People+Parks Connection is a mayoral initiative dedicated to improving access to Jacksonville’s expansive park system, including recreational sites and the abundant natural resources Northeast Florida offers. By being safe in and around our waterways, Jacksonville residents will be able to enjoy the amenities in their community more than ever.