GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – Water recreation is a way of life at the South Jersey shore. Water safety can be a life-saver.
The Galloway Swim Club hosted a free “Make a Splash” day on swimming and water safety on Saturday, June 10. Galloway students from kindergarten through eighth grade received free swimming lessons from the Galloway Swim Club, Brigantine Aquatic Center and Brigantine Greenhead volunteers.
It was a carnival atmosphere at the Swim Club, as more than 100 children received personal swim instruction, watched an American Red Cross water safety, CPR and First Aid demos, and played fun carnival games
Swim Club director Robin Taylor said "Make a Splash" is an initiative of USA Swimming to introduce children to the water and develop basic floating and swimming skills. Some of the children were new to the pool while others received help from instructors in refining their competitive strokes. Safety is the top priority.
"Drowning is the second biggest cause of accidental pediatric death in this country," Taylor said. "If you think about all of the time a child gets in a car versus the time they're really around water, and drowning is still No. 2? ... It's amazing. The (beginner) swimming lessons, rather than teach them actual strokes and mechanics, it teaches them respect for the water. They know what their limitations are, and they won't run up to a pool and just jump in, like some children do.
"It's a process, and not an expensive one," Taylor said. "If you equate it to dance or football or some of the other sports, it's really not expensive to save a child's life. And if they take it to the next level and wind up competing, it's a great sport. I have people at the Aquatic Center that are in their 70s and 80s and they're still swimming. They're certainly not still playing football."
Sarah Takavage, a Brigantine resident and Rutgers University student, swam competitively for 13 years and now teaches youngsters of all ages with the Greenheads club team. She said she draws inspiration from seeing how the youngsters improve from lesson to lesson.
"At first, they're barely able to stay afloat. At the end of the season they're able to swim a race, and they can win. It's so nice to see that. I like teaching the older kids, because you can get really specific with the technique, and once you get kids to that level, they have the potential to get scholarships, and that's a really big deal now."
Brie Lewis, 22, of Galloway, is also a coach for the Greenheads. She said she enjoys the challenge of teaching children the health benefits and simple joys of safe swimming.
"It's a little stressful working with children but it's really rewarding," she said, "because once they figure out what to do and how to do it and you see them having fun, you see them learning the things that you're teaching them. It's just a really rewarding experience."
On Sunday, Galloway Swim Club and the Greeheads sponsored a "Cannonball Contest" to benefit Massi's Mission, a Faces 4 Autism Swim Safety program.
The Brigantine Greenheads will be holding summer swim tryouts 9 a.m. Saturday, June 17 at the Galloway Swim Club; and 9 a.m . Saturday, June 21 at the Galloway Swim Club. The Greenheads are open to swimmers age 4-18 throughout Atlantic and Cape May Counties. For more information, contact Robin Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sari Carrol at email@example.com.
To see more photos from the "Make a Splash" event, go to shorenewstoday.com/sports.