Drowning is the second leading cause of death for U.S. children and in urban areas, this is a particularly difficult challenge. As YNN's Erin Clarke tells us, the YMCA of Greater Syracuse has set out to change the statistics.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- After six weeks, 11-year-old twin brothers, Devin and Donavin Williams, know how to do more than just splash around in the pool.
"How to hold my breath and swim all the way around the pool," said Devin Williams.
The boys and other Say Yes Camp kids are wrapping up a summer in the Greater Syracuse YMCA's Urban Swim Initiative program. The goal isn't to turn them into Michael Phelps, at least not yet. It's more of an introduction to the water.
"This program is geared more towards water safety than swim lessons. I think the first step to getting kids into swim lessons is getting them sort of used to being in that environment," said YMCA Aquatics Coordinator Alena Anthony.
Skills that could save their lives. Research shows that children of color are more likely to drown and in Onondaga County, on average, two children drown each year and three more a year are treated for near drowning incidents.
One of the reasons why the incidence of drowning is so high is because not knowing how to swim becomes a cycle.
"If the parents don't swim, they may instill some sort of fear in the child and it just goes on from there," said the Downtown YMCA Chairman Thomas Kogut.
The Urban Swim Initiative program, now in its second year, is expanding with a focus on breaking that pattern. In the fall, the Y will start family water safety classes.
"Getting the parents used to handling their children in the water when maybe the children aren't totally acclimated to the environment will help create safety and create a comfortable atmosphere at a young age," said Anthony.
And while they're at it, improve on a skill that will also promote a healthy life style.
If you’d like to learn more about the Urban Swim Initiative Program or lend your support, call the YMCA at (315) 474-6851, ext. 309 or visit their website, www.ycny.org.