The Hastings Family YMCA received a grant through the YMCA of the USA for 105 children from low-income families to receive free swimming lessons and is looking accepting applications for those grant funds.
The first of two upcoming swimming lessons sessions begins Aug. 2.
This is the fourth year the Hastings Family YMCA received grant funds for free swimming lessons. Normally, the Y gives those to families who have previously received programming scholarships.
“We sent out letters to all those people and we got some response, but we still have a lot of spots open,” YMCA CEO Troy Stickels said. “We wanted to try to get the word out more and let people know it’s available. Because a lot of times that’s something that people, if they can’t afford it they just don’t do it and then those kids don’t learn.”
Applicants for free swimming lessons must qualify for the Y’s financial assistance guidelines to be eligible.
The YMCA has a sliding scale based on the same income levels as free and reduced lunch in public schools.
“They could easily come in and ask about our financial assistance rates,” Stickels said. “It’s just a chart that’s based off your income and how many people in your home that shows you if you qualify — or they could look on our website and it’s under our membership section, there’s a financial assistance area that has the same chart.”
The Y asks for couple forms showing income.
“It’s not a painful process,” he said.
Aquatics director Maria Urlacher said safety is the biggest issue.
“Really, swimming lessons should be just as important as teaching a kid to look both ways before crossing the street,” she said. “Both should just be ingrained in their brain. Even if they are not going to become the next Olympian, they need to be able to keep themselves safe if they are in a situation where water is there. Or even recreational swimming, they need to be able to have fun and not be worried about other things that might happen if they are not comfortable.”
The first session of swimming lessons is Aug. 2-10 — Monday through Thursday and then the following Monday and Tuesday. Several 40-minute classes are available on those dates between 9 a.m. and noon.
“We had to get kind of creative with that because Adams Central’s first day of school is on the 11th and we wanted to make sure we didn’t interfere with their first day,” Urlacher said.
Once school starts there will be 30-minute classes between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting Aug. 17 and continuing through Sept. 9. There are two divisions: swimming basics for ages 3 to 5; and learn to swim for ages 6 to 14.
“Drowning is a pretty big deal,” Stickels said. “We’ve seen it already the last few weekends in different areas of water. It’s one of the leading causes of death among young people — they just don’t know how to be safe around water. We don’t want the inability to pay to hinder somebody from learning how to swim.”
For more information, call the Hastings Family YMCA at 402-463-3139.