This photograph was taken at the Geneva, New York YMCA swimming pool last Friday, June 18. That big kid in the middle who looks a lot older than the others is me. The occasion was the last Friday evening swim outing of the school year for the Boys & Girls Club kids of Geneva. Every Friday after work during the spring months I take about 11 of them with me in a van to the YMCA pool where I teach them how to swim and to safely enjoy the water. Most of them have never been in the water before they came with me. Some of them stay with me for several years.
Why do I do it? Lots of reasons, really. Giving back to the community. Really caring about children (I have five myself!). Paying back a debt I owe to the world for being so damn lucky in life. But here’s another reason: To save lives.
You see, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death among children. And one demographic in particularly at risk. Which one? Take another look at the photo. Yes, mostly African American kids. As discussed in a recent ABC news report, black children drown at three times the rate of white children. This is because while 60% of white children can swim, only 30% of black kids can.
As a Syracuse and Geneva New York area personal injury attorney, I also handle New York child drowning cases. These cases just drive me crazy, because the harm is so preventable! Usually the accidental drowning claim is brought against whoever was in charge of supervising the child that drown, or against the pool owner for not providing a secure, safe pool. Research shows that proper use and installation of barriers or fencing, as well as additional layers of protection, can prevent child swimming pool drownings.
But there is a layer of security that goes beyond proper supervision and proper pool safety. I am talking about teaching kids to swim. It’s very simple, really: Kids who can swim usually don’t drown, and kids that can’t, often do, So in my little corner of the world, in Geneva, New York, I am helping kids, mostly black kids, learn how to swim away from those disturbing statistics.