300 Virginia Beach kids take part in ‘World’s Largest Swimming Lesson’

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - In they go, slowly paddling their way to skilled swimmers.

“We got to go over some introductory skills, kicking, arm movements, breath control,” Water Safety Instructor Jalen Busch explained.

300 Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation summer camp kids took part in the "World’s Largest Swim Lesson" Thursday.

The goal is to teach them how to be safe in, on or around the water.

“We always have the ones that are afraid, so the first thing we try to do is make sure that are comfortable putting their face underwater, blowing bubbles,” Busch, who is Red Cross certified, explained.

Research shows children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates.

According to a 2017 report, while swimming ability among us children is up, several groups like minorities and children with parents who can’t swim still face challenges.

“I think low-income families have a hard time proving swim lessons to children so that could have an impact,” Kaitlyn Childs, Recreation Specialist One in Aquatics with Princess Anne Recreation Center, said. “That’s why we try to offer Mary Helen Thomas Day, which is a free swim lesson day, and our SOS program throughout the elementary schools.”

Related: Cooling off in the pool? Here are a few things to keep in mind to stay safe

News 3 reached out to the other cities in Hampton Roads about summer lessons.

Most offer free instructions in some capacity.

However, Chesapeake officials tell us because they don’t have a public swimming facility, they can't provide those services.

That’s where organizations like the YMCA come in.

“This one is always busy,” Joy Thomen, the Director of Association Aquatics for YMCA of South Hampton Roads, explained.

We visited them at their Great Bridge/Hickory location.

“For us, because we span such a very large area that I think we’ve got a lot of the communities covered. If there’s not one in that immediate community, we’re nearby and can still help meet that need,” Thomen explained.

Instructors said it’s a need that will continue breaking down barriers and improving swimming capabilities for generations.

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