Local program teaches 2nd graders to swim to combat CDC drowning statistics

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU)- With warmer temperatures finally creeping their way back in, hitting the beach or pool may be on many people's minds; and being safe while in a body of water is something we all want to keep top of mind.

Unfortunately, according to the CDC, drownings are one of the leading causes of death for kids ages 1 to 14. That's why a local program is looking to help better prepare our kids.

Teach Kids to Swim is a program in Chippewa Falls helping kids learn basic skills in the water. Three days a week during gym class, 2nd graders from Parkview Elementary School in Chippewa Falls walk across the road and suit up at the Chippewa Valley Family YMCA.

“You get to do something fun and actually learn how to do it,” said 2nd grader Sophie.

“They do give up a little bit of recess time for the transfer and changing of clothes getting back to school, but not one child has complained about that because it's a great physical activity,” said Melissa Olson, the principal at Parkview Elementary.

It's the 2nd year of the program, and they were able to add a second school to the mix. This last fall, they also taught 2nd graders at Hillcrest Elementary, in hopes to keep expanding so that they can lower the CDC drowning odds.

“We don't expect Olympic swimmers out of this, but if they leave here knowing what they can’t do in the water, that's just as important,” Cathy Krula, the aquatic director, said.

“We learned how to float, how to swim,” added in 2nd grader Jonathon.

Over the next few years, the Chippewa Valley Family YMCA wants to expand to every elementary school in Chippewa Falls.

“We’d love to be able to incorporate all of the schools in Chippewa Falls,” Krula said. “We did include Hillcrest Elementary last fall and we did those over at the middle school. We're flexible at working with schools, getting kids in the water and teaching them safety.”

Teach Kids to Swim is a program funded by a grant through the Community Foundation of Chippewa County. In order to expand they'll need to receive additional funding and grants. If you're interested in helping out, you can donate directly to the Chippewa Valley Family YMCA. You just need to designate the donation to “Teach Kids to Swim,” so the donation goes to the right area. You can head to www.chippewaymca.com