By GREG LUBERECKI
With water all around us here on the Gulf Coast, basic water-safety skills are vital. This summer, nearly 4,000 children in Sarasota and Charlotte counties have the knowledge and ability to remain safe near water thanks to swimming lessons funded through philanthropy.
The Monda Kids SWIM (Safe Water Instruction Matters) initiative of Gulf Coast Community Foundation offered every second-grade student in Sarasota County schools the opportunity to participate in a week’s worth of free swimming lessons during school hours last year.
Students were transported with their class to one of five area YMCA branches or Girls Inc. of Sarasota County for an hour of daily group swimming lessons with certified aquatics instructors for five straight days.
In all, about 2,800 Sarasota County students from 24 schools received lessons during the 2018-19 school year.
Monda Kids SWIM was created by philanthropists Keith and Linda Monda in partnership with Gulf Coast Community Foundation in 2013. The Mondas wanted to save a long-running program that provided free swimming lessons in northern Sarasota for years but was ending, and the foundation worked extensively with the school district and nonprofit partners to expand the opportunity countywide.
The Monda Kids SWIM Fund at Gulf Coast pays for bus transportation as well as pool time and instruction at the partner facilities.
In 2016, funding from the Gould Family Foundation at Gulf Coast enabled the creation of Kids SWIM Charlotte, an extension of the initiative to Charlotte County Public Schools. According to CCPS, nearly 1,000 Charlotte County second-graders from all 10 elementary schools participated last year, receiving lessons at either the YMCA or the county pool.
“With children spending even more time around pools, ponds, and the Gulf during the summer, the skills and confidence they gain through Kids SWIM can be life-saving,” said Mark Pritchett, President/CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “We are so grateful to the Mondas, the late Alvin Gould and the many other generous donors who have made this opportunity possible for our community’s students.”
Greg Luberecki is director of Communications for Gulf Coast Community Foundation