Thursday, August 23, 2012
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH – Approximately one hundred ninety children and teenagers will soon add “swimming” to their arsenal of skills after receiving free lessons at REGALA pool in Reserve. Under the supervision of eight lifeguards, local youth ages 5 to 17 are taking swim classes in the evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays through the Ashley Kelly Swim Program sponsored by the American Red Cross, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and St. John the Baptist Parish Parks and Recreation.
“It is going great for being a first year program,” said Alex Doubleday, a St. John Parish lifeguard and Red Cross swim instructor. “This allows children to gain a better understanding of an area with so much water. Water safety is critical for living here and I am happy to be involved.”
The Red Cross and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation also provided four days of comprehensive classroom sessions before the program started. In the pool, certified instructors teach water skills through fun activities, specifically focusing on floating, kicking, breathing, arm movement and swimming to the side of the pool.
“Last week, my daughter Lakeria would not even get in the water. This week she is pushing off the wall and swimming to the middle, kicking her feet and all. It is amazing watching her get over her fear,” said LaPlace resident Erica Alston. Another proud mother, Ventura Magges, said she is forever grateful for what the program is giving her children. “They are getting a gift for life,” she said. “Swimming skills can be used forever.”
St. John Parish Recreation Director Terrence Jones said the Ashley Keller Swim Program has been a positive experience for the recreation department and for all participating. The program is funded through Capital Funds from the State of Louisiana secured by State Representative Randall Gaines. “The vision of President Robottom and Representative Randall Gaines to provide water safety skills to the youth of St. John Parish goes along with plans to enhance all recreation programs within the parish,” said Jones.
“Swimming is a life-long skill, but unfortunately many of our kids do not have access to swimming lessons. If this program saves one life, it will be a success. Many residents in our community have suffered losses related to accidents involving water and this program is designed to help prevent future accidents,” said Parish President Natalie Robottom.
St. John Parish has two public pool locations: 194 Regala Park Road in Reserve, and 137 Castle Drive in Edgard. For more information on the program, or for pool hours, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at (985) 652-9569 or visit sjbparish.com. For water safety information, visit www.poolsafely.gov.