For many, a summer without time at the local swimming pool doesn’t truly feel like summer at all. Unfortunately for many children attending Govans Elementary School of York Road in Towson, Maryland, a swimming pool has never been a part of their summer.
Recently the USA Swimming Foundation conducted a survey and found that 79% of children living in households that make less than $50,000 a year have little or no swimming ability. This scary high percentage is one of the many reasons communities need to work together to help these children learn water safety skills that could potentially save their lives one day.
The Junior H2Ounds created by Loyola University swimmer Cara Egan has been involving children from Govans Elementary School in their water safety program for almost four years. The Loyola University Aquatic Center is just a mile walk down the road from Govans Elementary School, but many of their students have never been provided access to a pool or the opportunity to learn how to swim.
Currently Jenna Egan, Cara’s younger sister and member of the swim team at Loyala University, has taken over the program. Jenna said she was “intrigued” by her sister’s work, and constantly picked Cara’s brain about it. When it was time for Cara to graduate, Jenna didn’t hesitate to step in. Jenna said “I really asked [to do it], she didn’t need to ask me.” Jenna said she does it “because [she] loves it,” she knows that what the program is doing is crucial to the safety of many children who do not have access to water safety lessons.
Jenna says that the grins stretching from cheek to cheek on each child’s face when they enter the pool facility is just one of the many reasons she continues this incredible service her sister started. Not only is she helping save these children’s lives, she’s giving them a fun experience splashing and playing in a giant heated pool.
Regardless of whether or not a child swims or plays at a pool regularly, all children should be taught the safety skills needed for the worst case scenario. Children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water, making seemingly safe structures like water fountains or decorative streams dangerous to non-swimmers.
The skills that Jenna, Cara, and many of their Loyola swim team partners are showing these children will teach them how to react under pressure when they are caught in the worst case scenario. The basic skills they will learn include flipping onto their back, blowing bubbles to surface, and finding the wall of the pool in order to climb out.
Last year, American Pool Chief Executive Officer, Rick Naden came across a Baltimore Sun article that highlighted the work Cara and her team were doing with the Junior H2Ounds. Rick knew that this was the kind of service American Pool wanted to support, teaching young community members lifesaving water safety skills. Last year we brought swim goggles for the Junior H2Ounds, and this year we donated “Future Lifeguard” t-shirts. Next year’s donations are still in the works, but we know that as long as this service is being provided, we will be there to help!
Until these kids are given proper access to swimming pools and lessons, Jenna and her team hope to continue “bridging the gap” between the two sides of York Road and provide water safety lessons to all those who need them.