Florida Blue supports Y’s Safety Around Water program with grant

Florida Blue supports Y’s Safety Around Water program with grant
Eric Mann, Susan Towler, Darnell Smith

YMCA of Florida’s First Coast was one of four statewide YMCA associations to receive a grant which will support the critical need of swim safety and drown prevention. Jacksonville-based Florida Blue donated $310,000 to provide free swim lessons and mobile aquatics programs for more than 5,000 children and families through the Y’s Safety Around Water program.

YMCA of Florida’s First Coast will receive $100,000. The announcement was made July 18 at the Winston Family YMCA in Riverside/Brooklyn.

“This doesn’t happen without a great relationship with our partners,” said Eric Mann, YMCA of Florida’s First Coast President and CEO. “When we can wake up every day and know what we do is the opportunity to save a life, that’s what this is all about.”

“All of Jacksonville’s children should be able to safely enjoy a day at the beach, fishing on a pier, boating on the river or having a pool fight,” said Darnell Smith, Florida Blue market president. “The grant provides funding for eight lessons per child, the hiring and training of instructors, transportation, and lesson coordination.”

As a leader in water safety and swim instruction, the Y’s Safety Around Water program is designed to teach children how to reach the water’s surface if submerged, safely reach the edge of a pool, exit any body of water and respond to unexpected water situations.

“Drowning is a preventable tragedy and we have a responsibility to help parents and caregivers understand the importance of teaching themselves and their children how to survive in water,” said Susan Towler, Florida Blue executive director of corporate social responsibility. “Swimming can be a lifelong source of fun and exercise.”

At the presentation, 10-year YMCA volunteer and chair of the Brooks YMCA Advisory Board Josh Harrison spoke about his own life-altering drowning experience at age 3. He talked about the search party, the nearby doctor who pulled him out of Doctor’s Lake and began CPR, the paramedics who intubated him in the ambulance, the Life Flight, and the doctors who saved him, referring to them collectively as his ‘support system.’

“Programs like this, with the support of our partners, help the kids in the city who don’t have a similar support system,” said Harrison, who introduced the Walker family with a testimonial about the program.

“My children have taken part in the program for the last two years,” said Angel Walker. “It’s a fabulous program through an after-school program. I grew up not learning how to swim so it was important for my children to learn how to swim. When I asked Paris what she’s learned, she said, ‘Well, Momma, I learned how to not drown.’”

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