On Saturday, East Flatbush residents learned the basics of water safety during a swim clinic led by 2004 Olympic silver medalist Maritza McClendon at the Thomas S. Murphy Clubhouse.
State Senator Kevin Parker hosted the clinic to promote water safety and help reduce drowning incidents in his district.
The half-day clinic, which was part of the Swim 1922 initiative, a partnership between USA Swimming and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. to increase swim participation and decrease drowning rates in the African-American community, welcomed more than 50 youth and adult.
The sorority launched the program seven years ago after learning that drowning is the second-leading cause of death in the United States and have pledged to encourage others to learn to swim. The partnership with USA Swimming, Swim 1922, is named for the year the sorority was founded. Annually, approximately 20,000 adults and youth participate in these swim clinics across the United States.
“Swimming is the only sport that can save lives, and we continue to partner with USA Swimming to educate and inspire children and families to learn about water safety,” said Deborah Catchings-Smith, international president of Sigma Gamma Rho.
According to a 2017 study by the University of Memphis and the University of Nevada, 64 percent of African American, 45 percent of Hispanic/Latino and 40 percent of Caucasian children have little to no swimming ability. African-American children drown at a rate nearly three times higher than their Caucasian peers, and drowning is the second leading cause of childhood unintentional death for children under the age of 14. Formal swimming lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88 percent.
“It’s important to spread awareness of the importance to learn to swim, but also to make it a fun experience to learn and be inspired by an Olympic swimmer,” McClendon said. “It’s an absolute honor to be able to share my love for the sport of swimming and the importance of this life-saving skill. I hope everyone walks away with all the tools they need to be water safe as a family this summer.”
Before getting in the water, attendees had the opportunity to hear more about McClendon’s journey as the first African-American athlete to compete in swimming at the Olympic Games.
After the clinic, Parker pledged his commitment to growing swimming education and water safety in his district.
“It was an honor to have Olympic silver medalist Maritza McClendon in my district to teach constituents of all ages the importance of water safety,” Parker said. “I look forward to working alongside USA Swim, Sigma Gamma Rho and the Thomas S. Murphy Clubhouse to expand this program and create more opportunity for children of color to learn how to swim and understand the importance of water safety at an early age.”
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