St. John Parish offering free swimming lessons

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2012



LAPLACE – Starting Tuesday, St. John the Baptist Parish area children ages 5 to 17 will have the opportunity to take part in free swimming lessons as part of a cooperative agreement between the parish, the American Red Cross and the Pontchartrain Levee District.

The free lessons, which will be held at the Regala Park swimming pool in Reserve, are part of the Red Cross’s Ashley Kelly Swim Program. Parish spokesperson Paige Falgoust said funding for the lessons came from a state allocation secured by state Rep. Randall Gaines.

Falgoust said as many as 210 participants will receive five 45-minute lessons from 14 trained instructors. Lessons will include life-saving swimming skills and safety in, on and around water. Following the swim lesson, participants will learn how to become better stewards of the environment.

The swim lessons come on the heels of a recent renaming of the Regala Park pool by the St. John Parish Council to honor the memory of Alex Roland Reese, who died swimming in the pool shortly before it was officially opened in 1978. Reese, 21, broke his neck after diving into the pool while swimming with friends. Parish President Natalie Robottom said the swim lessons could help prevent a similar tragedy.

“Many residents in our community have been affected by accidents involving water, and this program is designed to help prevent future accidents,” Robottom said. “It is important that our children know about water safety and become comfortable around pools and other bodies of water.”

Falgoust said swim sessions will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Aug. 14 through Aug.  30.  Classes will be held in the evenings at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., and participants will attend the same session each lesson.

Braud said transportation would be provided to and from the program for those residents who need assistance getting to the pool.

Braud said with space in the program limited to 210 participants, registration will be on a first come first served basis. Registration is being accepted at the St. John Parks and Recreation Office located at the Regala Gym, 200 Regala Park Road. Forms can be completed in the office or downloaded from the Parish website at

The Ashley Kelly Swim Program was created in response to the 2003 drowning death of Ashley Marie Kelly in Lake Pontchartrain. According to the program’s website, Ashley’s sister, Latoya, not knowing how to swim, helplessly witnessed her sister’s tragic death.

Latoya made it her mission to educate New Orleanians on water safety by creating the program.