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Sebastopol Rotary seeks swim class volunteers
Sebastopol is the only city in the nation that teaches every kid how to swim for free
Submitted by the Sebastopol Rotary Club
The sounds of summer will soon be coming from the direction of Ives Pool, where the Sebastopol Rotary Club will again be teaching area seven-year-olds how to swim.
From April 17 through May 11, free swimming lessons are being offered by the Sebastopol Rotary Club, which has been providing basic swim and water safety lessons since 1984.
Over 300 kids from participating schools such as Oak Grove, Park Side, Harmony, Forestville, Sunridge, Orchard View, Apple Blossom, Gravenstein, Sebastopol Independent Charter, and Reach will be eager for instruction.
Rotary Club co-chairs, Rick Wilson and Greg Jacobs figure that at by the end of this year’s program, 13, 000 children will have benefited from the program. Water safety experts have said that for every 100 lessons taught, a life is saved, so you can do the math.
According to Wilson, “This community should be proud because there is not a child water safety program like it anywhere else in the nation.”
But Learn to Swim cannot be run just by Rotarians. There are not enough to make up the 100 volunteers required to put on the program. As with every year of the program, Wilson and Jacobs must call on more parent and community involvement because of the large number of second graders in area schools. To achieve the best result, Rotary aims for a ratio of one teacher for every three kids.
“You do not have to be a former competitive swimmer or swim instructor to help with the lessons. We teach volunteers how to teach very basic swim lessons, and we help them poolside during classes as well,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs, who learned to swim at Ives Pool while growing up in Sebastopol, was also a former pool manager, lifeguard, and swim instructor at Ives during high school, college, and law school.
Wilson is no stranger to the subject of water safety. He owned a white-water rafting business on Cache Creek for over 20 years and volunteered for the Capay Valley Fire Department Water Rescue team.
“It’s a great program, given that we live in Sonoma County where water is everywhere,” Wilson said. “Sebastopol is the only city in the nation that teaches every kid how to swim for free.”
He also said that the program instructors, all volunteers, get great satisfaction from spending a couple hours a week giving children something as important as the opportunity to learn how to swim. Wilson also emphasizes that the kids gain a tremendous amount of self-esteem during the month-long program.
“You can just see it in their eyes by the end of lessons,” he said.
Jacobs and Wilson bring in a state park ranger-lifeguard, Sgt. Tim Murphy, to talk the kids about being safe around the ocean and the Russian River. The kids are impressed when he shows up with all of his life saving gear that he uses for cold water rescues.
Jacobs remembers a water safety lesson he learned as a kid the hard way.
“I was playing around in shallow water in my little inner tube in the Russian River at Mirabel beach, when I ignored my mother’s instruction to stay close. I got too big for my britches, and pretty soon a hidden current swept me out to deeper water. The entire beach rose up and came after me! I thought I was going to the ocean, but mom and other adults grabbed me right away. I never again forgot being careful on the Russian River.”
According to Wilson and Jacobs, drowning is the leading cause of death for kids, ages one to four. The American Academy of Pediatricians now recommends swim lessons for that age group, which can reduce drawings of those younger children by over 80%. Ten people drown every day in the U.S, and most are children.
If you, your partner, family members, friends want to help keep our children safe
please volunteer to help at Ives. No offer to help will be refused. You can use the volunteer form below, pick up a form at Ives, from a participating school, or by contacting Jacobs at 707-823-7341 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Wilson at 707-824-0846 or email@example.com.