ADAMS TWP — A new program at MHY Family Services aims to help children develop water skills while also building confidence.
The organization's therapeutic swim program debuted this summer in partnership with the Butler County Family YMCA. More than 45 children participated in the twice weekly classes.
Allie Hamilton, therapeutic recreation program coordinator with MHY, said the partnership was sparked by staff noticing that children using the swimming pool on campus lacked experience with water or water safety.
“Many of the children could not swim or would not get into the water during pool time,” she said. “I knew we needed to address this, but in a way that provided an opportunity to build self-esteem, confidence and essential life skills.”
The program was made possible by a $1,700 grant from Moe's Southwest Grill as part of its community support program.
Ashley Vranick, a swim instructor with the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA in Cranberry Township, said less than 5 percent of participants had basic swim skills when the program started, and just two had previously had formal swimming lessons. Additionally, some youth experienced trauma related to past water incidents. This required instructors to take a different approach with participants, including a focus on how to safely remove themselves from a pool.
“We created an environment where children felt safe to learn at their own pace and the results were astounding,” Hamilton said.
Vranick agreed, adding how after a few weeks of instruction most students felt comfortable going underwater without plugging their noses. With the overall goal of teaching participants all four swim strokes, she said most students learned at least one stroke and can now swim 15 feet without touching the pool floor.
“This program could literally save lives,” Vranick said. “In addition to being educational, it also provides a therapeutic outlet for relaxation, fitness and overall well-being.”
Hamilton said the participants also have a sense of pride about what they have accomplished. “I love hearing those children who began this journey with some fear and hesitation tell me now how much fun they had,” she said.
For more information, visit www.mhyfamilyservices.org.