L’OBSERVATEUR: Everyone needs to learn how to swim

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Everyone needs to learn how to swim, and it has nothing to do with summer fun in swimming pools.

The River Parishes are surrounded by any number of lakes, rivers, canals and ponds. When someone doesn’t know how to swim, those waterways can become life-threatening hazards.

When most people think of swim lessons, they think of youth and public pools, but the truth is too many adults haven’t taken the responsibility to learn how to swim. Worse, many haven’t seen to it that their children know how to swim.

Officials in St. John the Baptist Parish are taking steps to drastically reduce the number of people who don’t know how to survive in the water by offering the Ashley Kelly Swim Program through a collaborative effort with the American Red Cross and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

The three-week program, which ends this week, provided more than 200 participants with life-saving swimming skills and safety practices for in and around swimming pools and other bodies of water.

The program was especially impactful this year because, organizers said, numerous adults took advantage of the offering to either learn for the first time how to swim or touch up on their water-safety skills.

Parish President Natalie Robottom put it succinctly, saying the program “provides astronomical benefits,” adding “if one life is saved as a result of this program, it will be a success.”

The program could have accommodated 300 residents this year, so too many in the community are missing out on this all-important, life-saving lesson.

Lake and pool swimming are wonderful activities to enjoy on hot summer days in South Louisiana, but those moments shouldn’t turn tragic because of ignorance in the water.

Volunteers have talked about adding to the program’s offerings next year with the addition of an adaptive aquatics program for the parish’s physically handicapped residents.

Everyone, regardless of physical limitation or economic background, should know how to swim.

Parish government has provided the location (the REGALA Park swimming pool), hired lifeguards and secured the service of adult volunteers.

Now the only thing separating St. John residents and the ability to swim is the pain-free registration process.