HOUSTONTexas  (KIAH) –  As summer approaches the YMCA will begin their annual Safety Around Water (SAW) campaign as part of a commitment to reduce drowning rates and keep our community safe around water. The campaign works to provide essential swim programs that empower youth, build healthier families and foster inclusive communities.

This SAW program is entirely free and accessible to the community due to grants and generous donors and anticipates around 2,000 participants this year at various YMCA locations, YMCA Community Based Opportunity Centers, school districts and other community organizations.

Through SAW, children and adults can properly prepare for summer by engaging in water safety education courses taught by YMCA aquatic experts. The specialized courses include survival swim skills, safety skills, like CPR, and basic swim skills. These courses are different from the traditional swim lessons that are offered for the community. With nationally certified instructors and a top ranked swimming program that hosts one million students every year, the YMCA welcomes youth to not only learn important water safety skills but increase their physical activity and self-esteem, cultivate a positive mental attitude and learn life lessons such as sportsmanship and teamwork.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of death for children ages one to 14 years old. In ethnically diverse communities, the youth drowning rate is two to three times higher than the national average, according to a USA Swimming study. To eliminate these obstacles and unify the community, the YMCA partners with apartment complexes, school districts and other community organizations to ensure that children learn the swimming skills necessary to be safe around water. Currently, the organization has coordinated 15 off-site locations for swim safety courses and partnered with two school districts, Humble ISD and Spring Branch ISD.

With impactful water safety education, the YMCA of Greater Houston looks forward to being the change, positively impacting the lives of our neighbors and providing equal access to important, life-saving skills for youth and adults.