LOS ANGELES, June 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Learning to swim can create a lifelong passion – or save a life. Just ask Janet Evans. The four-time Olympic gold medalist and mother of two is an outspoken advocate on the importance of pool safety, given the alarming number of children who drown each year. Today Evans will join Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA84 Foundation President and International Olympic Committee Member Anita L. DeFrantz, and Debbie Hesse from the USA Swimming Foundation at the Alondra Community Regional Park pool to celebrate the launch of LA84 Foundation's 2013 Summer Swim Program. The LA84 Foundation, endowed by surplus funds from the 1984 Olympic Games, is announcing more than $400,000 in grants to fund swim lessons and organized sports in public pools across Southern California, which will help reach 15,000 children across the region.
The grants are intended to help ensure that thousands of children know how to swim as the weather heats up and public pools open for the summer. The kick-off of the summer swim program comes on the heels of new statistics from the Consumer Product and Safety Commission stating that drowning is the second leading cause of childhood accidental death for children under the age of 14. Certain segments of the population are also at greater risk, with African American and Hispanic children representing approximately 65% of the overall accidental drowning victims. Approximately 10 people drown every day in the United States, and formal swim lessons can reduce the likelihood of drowning by 88%, according to a study by Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
"Learning how to swim saves lives, so we are focused on getting as many kids in the pool as possible this summer to hone their skills and stay safe," said LA84 Foundation President Anita L. DeFrantz. "Our Summer Swim Program fits directly into our mission to carry on the legacy of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Through supporting youth swimming programming, we hope to give these children the basic skills they need to be safe at the pool, and to also instill a love of water sports at an early age."
Now in its 28th year, the LA84 Summer Swim Program will reach more children than it ever has before through its partnership with 14 different Southern California municipalities. Funding is used to support basic instruction and competitive opportunities in swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming. The program reaches 15,000 children between the age of 7 and 17 at 106 pools across Southern California.
Four-time Olympic gold medalist and former world-record holder Janet Evans will be in attendance to highlight the importance of learning to swim and be safe around the pool.
"As a competitive swimmer growing up in Southern California, and now a mother of two small children, I am very aware of the importance of drowning prevention. LA84's funding plays such an important role in teaching thousands of children to swim each year, which can reduce the likelihood of drowning by nearly 88%," said Evans. "Our kids don't all have to be Olympic swimmers, but they do need to know the basics of being safe in and around the pool. It could save their life."
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has praised LA84's support of youth swim programming throughout LA County.
"I applaud the LA84 Foundation for bringing much-needed focus to the importance of swimming safety, particularly at this time of year when public pools are opening across the region," said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. "The Summer Swim Program is a fantastic asset to our community. The hundreds of thousands of dollars the foundation provides each year to public pools flow to children who might not otherwise have access to swimming lessons or water sports."
LA84 recently partnered with the USA Swimming Foundation, the philanthropic arm of USA Swimming, to help spread the message about water safety and the importance of swim lessons to an even broader audience. The organization's Make a Splash initiative spreads the word about the need for swim lessons across the country, with the help of U.S. Olympian Cullen Jones. Next year, the foundation will launch its Make a Splash tour in Los Angeles in coordination with LA84.
"The USA Swimming Foundation is thrilled to partner with LA84 when the Make a Splash Tour presented by Phillips 66 heads to Los Angeles in March 2014," said USA Swimming Foundation Executive Director Debbie Hesse. "I've met too many parents who lost a loved one say, 'I just didn't know.' Our goal is to make sure everyone knows. We're dedicated to ensuring every child in America has an opportunity to learn to swim, and understands the importance of learning to swim and water safety."
For additional information, and locations to sign up children for swim lessons and sports teams through an LA84-funded program, visit: 2013 Summer Aquatics Pools Listing.
About LA84 Foundation
The LA84 Foundation was established to manage Southern California's share of the surplus from the successful 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The Foundation received $93 million at its inception. Since it began operations in 1985, it has invested $214 million in sports programs serving more than 2.5 million youth in the eight Southern California counties of Los Angeles, Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura. Its headquarters is the historic Britt House near downtown Los Angeles where it houses the world's premier sports library and meeting facilities. The Foundation provides grants to youth sports organizations, manages programs, including a coaching education program, and convenes numerous forums for the exploration of the most pressing issues in sport. For additional information, please visit www.LA84Foundation.org.
SOURCE LA84 Foundation