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World’s Largest Swim Lesson builds awareness

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

Detroit — Latossah Henderson watched from under a gigantic purple umbrella as two of her children used neon yellow floating devices while learning swimming techniques in a 6-foot-deep pool.

“We have a pool at home so my children know how to swim, but there are some water safety tips that I think can be beneficial to them,” said Henderson, a mother of four.

Henderson’s family on Friday took part in the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson at the Wayne County Family Aquatic Center as part of a national initiative to build awareness and help prevent drownings. In a 24-hour period, more than 20 countries and an estimated 500 locations held a 30 minute swimming instructional as a part of the Lessons Save Lives program.

The aquatic center on Chandler Park served as the host location for about 100 participants in Metro Detroit for the program’s fourth year.

“A lot of times children are not exposed to swim lessons at an early age and it can become a hindrance when they get older,” said Adam Troy, project manager for the center. “It’s shocking to know that so many people die from drowning each year when one lesson can help save many lives.”

Drowning is the second-leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 4, and the second leading cause of accidental death for children under 14. When children 1 to 4 participate in formal swimming lessons, the risk of drowning is reduced 88 percent, but many children never receive formal water safety training, according to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance.

Paula Allen, of Detroit splashed in the pool with her children ages, 3 and 8.

“I’m learning how to swim now, but my children already know some of the basics,” Allen said. “Programs like this give kids the confidence to not to be afraid of water.”

During the lesson, 14 lifeguards demonstrated swimming techniques such as how to float without a device, front and back stroke swimming and what to do before entering a pool.

While overseeing the participants from the edge of the pool, Stephana Henderson, a lifeguard at the Wayne County Family Aquatic Center said most people can reduce their chance of drowning by following one simple rule.

“Never swim alone or swim without a lifeguard on duty,” she said. “If you happen to be alone, try to float on your back so you can and call out for help.”

Desiray Rush, who competed for four years on her high school swim team, said she believes swim lessons should be required for everyone.

“There is too much water in world, especially in Michigan for people to not know how to swim,” Rush said. “I think it should be law. Less people would drown and the world would be safer.”

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Twitter: @kylasmith525