Mayor Alvin Brown announced Thursday that Waterproof Jacksonville, a countywide campaign to prevent accidental drowning by teaching children to swim, will expand for its third consecutive year to offer free swim lessons to more than 1,800 youth. This year, the initiative will enhance its partnership with Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) to provide lessons to youth attending Woodland Acres Elementary School and 10 DCPS summer camps.
The program will also provide lessons through the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation and JaxParks Summer Camps, and JaxParks will offer financial assistance scholarships to children from income-restricted families and families of current military personnel on a first-come, first-served basis.
The 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 expand its partnership with Duval County Public Schools. Safe Kids Northeast Florida provided $7,000 in funding assistance to allow JaxParks to reach more kids.
Waterproof Jacksonville is a partnership with Safe Kids Northeast Florida, the City of Jacksonville Duval County Public Schools and area swim organizations, including the YMCA, Flying Fish Swim Team, Mandarin Aquatic Club, Planet Swim and Swim Safari. In addition to teaching children to swim, Waterproof Jacksonville will also expand its water safety message through a partnership with the United States Coast Guard Jacksonville Sector. The message emphasizes boating safety, particularly for smaller crafts such as canoes and kayaks.
“Everyone in our community should be able to experience and enjoy the simple pleasure of diving into a refreshing pool of water, but there are so many kids in our community who can’t because they don’t know how to swim,” Mayor Brown said. “We have to change that, and through our partners and donors who care about our children and saving lives, we can really have a positive impact on families and prevent needless tragedies.”
To date, the partners have committed to providing beginner swim lessons to about 1,800 children, including about 250 Woodland Acres students, 540 students attending select DCPS summer camps, 90 participants attending summer camp with the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation. The YMCA will provide lessons for another 248, Swim Safari for 48 and Mandarin Aquatic, Flying Fish and Planet Swim will each provide lessons for 10 youths.
JaxParks, through funding assistance from Safe Kids Northeast Florida and Wayne Hogan, will provide additional lessons for military dependents and youth from families with financial need.
“That means that we have the chance to impact the lives of 1,800 more young people in Jacksonville,” Mayor Brown said. “These are young people who will now be able to feel safe and enjoy more of what our city has to offer.”
Although the partners have been teaching swimming lessons for years, they agreed in 2013 to join Waterproof Jacksonville to provide additional lessons at no cost to help raise awareness of water safety and to reduce accidental drowning, which 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.
In addition to the partnership, Waterproof Jacksonville will spread the message about the importance of learning to swim through a series of PSAs, social media and video posts and media appearances.
As part of Mayor Brown’s People+Parks Connection, Waterproof Jacksonville ultimately provides more opportunities for people to get out and enjoy Jacksonville’s parks and waterways. Knowing how to swim and be safe around water makes enjoying Jacksonville’s great amenities even better.