The YMCA is continuing to teach youth to swim and water safety with their SPLASH program, which they offer to USD 490 second graders each school year.


The YMCA is continuing to teach youth to swim and water safety with their SPLASH program, which they offer to USD 490 second graders each school year.

To help with the program, community members are being asked to donate used swimsuits through Sept. 11 so kids can take part in the program.

The donated swimsuits, which can be dropped off at any of the Greater Wichita YMCAs, will be used by second graders from area low-income schools who are participating in the YMCA’s free SPLASH learn-to-swim and water safety program.

More than 1,500 students are expected to learn life-saving swimming skills through this program at the Greater Wichita YMCAs during the 2009-2010 school year.

“The simple gift of a gently used swimsuit can make a big difference in a child’s life,” said YMCA Community Development Executive Director Mim Wilkey. “Many of the kids in this program have never had a swim lesson, and both their fear and inexperience with regards to water increase their likelihood of drowning.”

El Dorado schools have had this partnership with the YMCA for a number of years.

"For many of our second graders, that is their only exposure to swimming lessons, so it's a wonderful opportunity for them to experience lessons," said USD 490 Superintendent Sue Givens. "Also, it fits with our wellness policy and helping kids discover life-long activities for fitness."

In this program children learn basic swimming, water safety and life-saving skills. Of those who participate, six out of 10 have never had a swim lesson and for many it is their first swimming experience.

“Our goal is that every child in these second grade classrooms has the chance to participate,” continued Wilkey. “And in a time when a lot of these families are struggling to put food on the table, paying for a swimsuit – even if it is to participate in a free program - may be out of the question.”

Any remaining swimsuits will be used in the YMCA’s free STARS (Students Together Afterschool for Recreation and Sports) program, which gives over 1,800 children at 12 low-income elementary schools the opportunity to visit a YMCA and participate in everything from crafts to sports and swimming. STARS provides a safe, healthy and enriching environment for children after school, and swimming is a favorite activity for many who would not otherwise have access to a pool.

YMCAs will have drop boxes in each of the following locations for swimsuit donations. Youth and adult swimsuits (no two-piece swimsuits) are being accepted.