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‘It gave me that sense of security’: Louisiana Splash and Water Safety nonprofit benefits community

LAPLACE — For more than 10 years, Tina Bates of LaPlace put off learning how to swim, choosing instead to finance swim lessons for her children.

After hearing about Melynie Wright and Anita Hefler’s cost-free adult swimming lessons at Belle Terre Country Club last month, Bates spent four days learning a skill that will benefit her for a lifetime.

“Before, if I got in a pool, I’d get panicky because I didn’t know what to do,” Bates said. “Learning to swim was very important to me because it gave me that sense of security. As an adult, don’t be embarrassed that you don’t know how to swim. If it’s taught to you properly, you can learn how to do it.”

Wright and Hefler are opening opportunities to others like Bates through their new foundation, Louisiana Splash and Water Safety.

Melynie Wright, top, leads an adult swim class in St. John the Baptist Parish.

According to Wright, forming a 501c3 nonprofit opens doors to community partnerships by allowing individuals to make tax-deductible donations.

As a not-for-profit organization, donors can rest assured that 100 percent of funds go toward facilities, equipment and education.

In a region where residents are surrounded by bodies of water, Wright said each person taught to swim represents lives saved.

“The beautiful thing about learning to swim is that it has a domino effect,” Wright said. “If a child is drowning at a party, instead of people crowding around and saying, ‘call someone,’ someone who knows how to swim can dive in. We’re breaking that barrier because swimming lessons need to be accessible.”

She and Hefler, a licensed instructor who also operates the Greater New Orleans Therapeutic Riding Center in LaPlace, offer low-cost classes to children and adults regardless of financial status or disability.

Special needs swim lessons are available on Mondays, and parents can call 225-328-6084 to register.

Water aerobics classes have been a huge hit in the St. John the Baptist Parish community, Wright said, typically attracting 30 to 50 people for guided water exercise that’s easy on joints.

After completing swim lessons, Bates joined a water aerobics class. She said she enjoys the exercise, which helps relieve severe circulation issues and swelling in her legs.

Bates said she’s spent the past month recommending water aerobics and swim lessons to family and friends.

“You have two great instructors,” Bates said.

“If you are struggling in a certain area, they certainly take the time to work with you and show you how to correct it.”

Moving forward, Wright wants to expand Louisiana Splash and Water Safety by connecting with local businesses and promoting boating safety education.

Wright said Belle Terre Country Club has been a willing community partner, and she thanks owner Semi Wadhwa and swim team director Natalie Tatje for their support in promoting water safety.

Adult swim classes are being held Tuesday through Friday at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. at Belle Terre Country Club.

To be put on a waiting list for September classes, weather pending, call 225-328-6084 or email louisianasplashandwatersaftey@gmail.com.

Water aerobics class enrollment remains open and costs $16.50 for the remainder of August and $33 for the month of September. Classes are held at 8 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and at 6:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday.