World’s Largest Swimming Lesson raises awareness on water safety

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The annual event is Thursday, as many Mainers are expected to escape the heat at pools, beaches, and lakes.

SANFORD, Maine — As Mainers brace for another day of scorching temperatures, many will head to the pool, beach, or lake to cool off.

While it’s expected to be a busy day on the water across the state, several aquatic centers plan to host swim lessons Thursday with a focus on drowning prevention.

The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson is an annual global event aimed at teaching parents and young children about proper water safety with a major goal to reduce the number of drownings.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drowning is a leading cause of death in childhood, especially for children 1 to 4 years of age. Research from the AAP shows that the risk of drowning can be reduced by 88 percent if children participate in formal swimming lessons between the ages of 1 and 4. 

“The first line of defense is parents knowing about water safety, not just the kids,” Alexis Fair, Aquatics Director at the Sanford-Springvale YMCA, said. 

Fair will be organizing one-hour swim lessons at the YMCA Thursday afternoon and campers at the YMCA will go through a safety lesson Thursday morning.

Another goal of the event is to break the world record for most swim lessons taught in a day.

While it will be a fun day for participating families, Fair added, the lessons learned could be life-saving.

Whether it’s during this heat wave or anytime your family goes swimming, Fair recommends parents actually get in the water with their young children. She also said it’s a good idea to tell your kids to get your permission before they swim.

“And I think that’s one thing that people don’t realize is that if you get that instilled in them really young, it can save lives,” she added.

Fair said she’s always been a swimmer and worked as lifeguard and swimming instructor before and after joining the Coast Guard. 

While there is a shortage of lifeguards at some aquatic facilities around Maine, Fair said the Sanford-Springvale YMCA is well-staffed at that position, but parents should be aware a lifeguard may not be present at your local pool or beach.

Another recommendation, Fair said young children or non-swimmers should wear Coast Guard-certified life jackets. Other tools like water wings can also be useful, but things can change quickly, so Fair said parents should always be present with their kids while the swim.

If you can’t make it to a body of water to cool off Thursday, there are a number of cooling centers open around Maine. Here is a link to other heat safety reminder. 

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