Millions of Americans are at risk because they can't swim

June 21, 2019 - 7:46 am
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Kansas City, MO - A large percentage of children in the U.S. have little or no ability to swim, an important lifesaving skill.

Sixty-four percent of African-American children cannot swim, according to the USA Swimming Foundation.

A study shows that 45 percent of Hispanic/Latino children and 40 percent of white children have little or no swimming ability.

Drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental injury-related childhood death.

"My time being at a swimming pool in eastside KC, there weren't too many swim instructors there," said KMBZ reporter Brandon Azim, whose family could not afford swimming lessons when he was growing up. "There were pools and there were lifeguards, of course, but there weren't any programs about teaching your kids how to swim or offering swimming lessons." 

Azim says he remembers sinking to the bottom of the pool as a child. He still doesn't know how to swim.

"Any time anyone can learn this lifesaving skill, the importance of it, we never want any financial barriers to be a problem," said Sadie Birchard, senior aquatics director at the YMCA.

Swimming lessons don't just teach people the strokes, but how to be safe in and around the water. The YMCA offers scholarships for people who cannot afford lessons, and it's never too late to learn how to swim, Birchard said.

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