Milwaukee families dive deep into swim safety program

Story & photos by Justin Kern, American Red Cross

With each splash of water in the pool, toddlers Raegan and Jaxon Oliphant-Clark added audible “oohs” and “ahhhs.” These were quickly followed by a stream of questions to their mom, Ashton Clark, on when they’d be able to join their older sister, Mackenzie, in the water.

Jaxon Oliphant Clark excited at pool with mom Ashton Clark Centennial JMAC Jan 2020

Jaxon Oliphant-Clark is wowed by watching his older sister, Mackenzie, swim at a pool in Milwaukee. Ashton Clark, left, said she was grateful for the chance to sign up all three of her kids for Saturday lessons offered in a partnership with Milwaukee Recreation and the American Red Cross.

Saturday, January 18 was the first day of swim lessons for the season at James Madison Academic Campus (JMAC), one of four pools in Milwaukee involved in a deepened water safety partnership with the American Red Cross Centennial Campaign.

Ashton Clark assured Raegan and Jaxon that they’d be “in the pool soon,” after their older sister’s more advanced swim lesson, where she accompanied by her father, Trevor Clark, a few other youth swimmers, and an instructor with the Red Cross.

“We want them in the pool, but with three kids it can be hard, it can be expensive” to get everyone into lessons at once, Ashton Clark said. “When [my husband] saw this online, it was a no-brainer.”

The Centennial Campaign is focused on increasing access to swim safety lessons in areas where there are higher-than-average rates of death by drowning. The campaign initially launched in 2014 – marking a century of American Red Cross safe swimming lessons – and has gone on to surpass its initial targets of teaching 50,000 more people how to swim at 50 select cities in the U.S.

Claudia Delgadillo trains floating Aniyah Callaway Centennial JMAC Jan 2020

Milwaukee Recreation instructor Claudia Delgadillo works with Aniyah Callaway, 6, to feel comfortable in the water during a recent lesson at James Madison Academic Campus.

The recent lessons in Milwaukee were the first in the state of Wisconsin under the Centennial Campaign banner, with a target of reducing Milwaukee’s heightened rates of drowning deaths. Milwaukee Recreation, a longtime partner in water safety and instruction, identified four pools in Milwaukee Public Schools where the reduced-price lessons – $5 per person, child or adult – opened the potential for more families to gain life-saving swim capability. In the first few days of registration, program participation nearly quadrupled at those four pools and even additional lessons filled up. (New lessons for all swim programs, including an extension of the Centennial Campaign, will be introduced again by Milwaukee Recreation in spring 2020. Sign up and find out more here.)

Back at JMAC’s pool on Saturday, parents and guardians braved snowy streets from the previous evening’s storm to bring their children to the kick-off of lessons. One refrain among adults was appreciation for the chance to have children learn to swim at a young age, something they didn’t have.

Shay Fike, of Milwaukee, signed up her daughter, Larissa Hudson, 8 (pictured with arms raised, below.) for her first swim lessons last year on the general safety advice of their pediatrician. Fike said she didn’t learn to swim until high school, so she was grateful for daughter “to have the skill” earlier in life.

“You never know when it’ll happen, when you’ll need it,” Fike said.

Larissa Hudson swims Claudia Delgadillo trains Centennial JMAC Jan 2020

Tiffany Ware-Callaway adjusted the red swim cap on the head of her daughter, Aniyah Callaway, 6. As she talked through the importance of feeling safe in the water, Aniyah listened attentively. Then, she fired off a few of her pool favorites.

“I like the slides and jumping in, yelling ‘cannonball!,’” she said before taking in a big gulp of air and bulging out her cheeks.

Click here to find a swimming safety lesson near you.

 

New National Swim Program at Four Milwaukee Pools Focuses on Affordability and Access to Life-Saving Skills

American Red Cross and Milwaukee Recreation Aquatics partner to create ‘ecosystem of water safety’ for children and adults with Centennial Campaign

[MILWAUKEE, Wisc., Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019] In an expansion of a national multi-year campaign to reduce drownings and increase access to water safety skills, the Milwaukee Recreation Aquatics program through Milwaukee Public Schools has joined the American Red Cross Aquatics Centennial Campaign.

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A student swims in Milwaukee pools during a summer safety lesson.

“We’re partnering with Red Cross aquatics training providers like Milwaukee Recreation Aquatics to create an ecosystem of water safety in communities where there are high numbers of drownings or drowning rates that are higher than the national average,” said Mark Thomas, Regional CEO and Southeast Wisconsin Chapter Executive, American Red Cross. “To families, this means having access to affordable life-saving swim lessons and water safety training in and near their communities.”

The Centennial Campaign will bring $5 swim lessons to resident and non-resident children and adults at four select Milwaukee Recreation school pools in the city:

  • James Madison Academic Campus (8135 W. Florist Ave.)
  • North Division High School (1011 W. Center St.)
  • Milwaukee High School of the Arts (2300 W. Highland Ave.)
  • Vincent High School (7501 W. Granville Road)

“Milwaukee Recreation is proud to be a part of the Centennial Campaign. The partnership will allow the Milwaukee community access to learn-to-swim programs at locations that have historically struggled with both poverty and drowning rates. We are excited to offer affordable, quality swim lessons, water safety education and lifeguard training to more students than we ever have before,” said Nicole Jacobson, Aquatics Supervisor with Milwaukee Recreation.

Registration is open starting Tuesday, Dec. 10 and available through the Milwaukee Recreation website [click here] and by-mail program.

Aquatics Centennial Campaign by the Numbers

The Red Cross campaign began in 2014 in recognition of 100 years of Red Cross swimming safety education. Due to the positive response, the campaign is expanding beyond the initial 50 programs.

Through the end of 2018, national campaign milestones include:

  • 81,288 sets of swim lessons in 93 communities and 197 aquatic facilities in 23 states
  • 839 lifeguards certified and 1,896 junior lifeguards trained
  • 768 Water Safety and Basic Swim instructors certified
  • 12,388 parents and caregivers armed with lifesaving water-safety knowledge and skills

Media contact on Centennial Swim program: Justin Kern (414) 242-6806 Justin.Kern@redcross.org