AVONDALE, Ohio (WKRC) – Ohio had 199 youth drownings in the last decade, the fifth-highest number in the country, according to the USA Swimming Foundation.
And just last summer, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital reports there were nine such drownings in the region, up from an average of just one to three a year.
That has prompted a new program aimed at getting free swim lessons to those who need them. Children’s is providing a $15,000 grant to the Cincinnati Recreation Commission and the Greater Cincinnati YMCA to provide free lessons to low-income families.
In addition, an existing program at Ziegler Park in Over-the-Rhine run by 3CDC will be expanded using the grant.
"Our goal is to make swimming and swim lesson the 'in' thing for young people across the city, period-point-blank,” said Commission Executive Director Daniel Betts. “We want to make sure young people across our city are exposed to learning to swim and there are no barriers to them being able to learn to swim.
"We know that 60% nationally of the African-American population across our country -- that number is probably even larger in the city -- do not know how to swim. That's both African-American -- huge numbers there -- as well as our Latino population," said Betts.
YMCA President and CEO Jorge Perez says drowning is the top killer of youths of color under the age of 14. It's also the leading cause of death for African-American children under the age of 4, according to CDC data.
Perez worries many kids may have lost swimming skills over the pandemic.
"We know that kids are curious,” Perez said. “They're going to jump in when they need to and we know they haven't been in the water for a year.
"It's the No. 1 killer of young people, kids of color. It's even that much more dangerous and we want to create this opportunity. And what we know is that we could not serve the community as well as we want to serve them if we were not in partnership with other organizations."