Jones to address importance of water safety in effort to reduce number of drownings, particularly among minority youth
PORTLAND, Ore., Aug. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For the third consecutive year, the USA Swimming Foundation and Olympic Gold Medalist Cullen Jones have joined forces with ConocoPhillips to raise awareness about the importance of learning to swim as part of the Make a Splash Tour with Cullen Jones. Through this tour, Jones, a survivor of a near-drowning incident at age five and the first African-American male to hold a world record in swimming, will visit Portland on Tuesday, Aug. 9 to address the importance of water safety in an effort to reduce the number of U.S. drownings, particularly among minority youth.
"We need to teach all youth how to swim – it is a life skill that can be the difference between life and death," said Jones. "Every summer I hear about kids drowning, and in so many cases, it can be prevented. There are resources and learn-to-swim programs available to parents, grandparents and children that are cost-effective, and in some instances, free. It is important to me to spread the word about the resources available and to give back to a sport that has given so much to me."
In Portland, Jones will meet with community leaders to advocate for water safety education and life-saving learn-to-swim programs in the region. Not only will he share his personal story of near-drowning and the efforts he took to become an Olympic champion, but Jones will also discuss why drowning continues to affect African-American and Hispanic families at alarming rates. Additionally, Jones will speak to a number of children about the benefits of learning to swim at Wattles Boys' and Girls' Club, and conclude the tour stop with a semi-private swim lesson for five lucky kids at the Multnomah Athletic Club.
"The USA Swimming Foundation strives to save lives and build champions," said Debbie Hesse, executive director of the USA Swimming Foundation. "We know that by providing the opportunity for children to learn to swim, we are saving lives, and that is why we are so committed to this initiative. We are incredibly proud to have made a difference for 845,000 children already, and we are steadily moving toward our goal of one million by the end of 2012."
Each year, more than 3,400 people drown in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and more than one in five fatal drowning victims are children younger than 14. In fact, 60-70% of African-American and Hispanic children cannot swim, according to a national research study by the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis. African-American children drown at a rate nearly three times higher than their Caucasian peers, the CDC reports.
Make a Splash is the national child-focused water safety initiative of the USA Swimming Foundation. Since its inception in 2007, Make a Splash has reached more than 845,000 children with life-saving swim lessons and the USA Swimming Foundation would like to surpass the one million mark by the end of 2012. Through its nearly 400 local partner programs, Make a Splash offers free or discounted swimming lessons or water safety education in 45 states.
For ConocoPhillips, which has partnered with USA Swimming for 38 years, the opportunity to sponsor the Make a Splash Tour was a natural extension of the company's steadfast commitment to safety and education. The company's charitable donation to the initiative will help save lives by giving thousands of children – who would otherwise not have the opportunity – the ability to take swimming lessons. Additionally, ConocoPhillips is also the title sponsor of the ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships, the marquee domestic event of the year for swimming. This year's event is being held Aug. 2 - 6, 2011, in Palo Alto, Calif.
Jones will visit six cities this summer to promote the availability of free or discounted swimming lessons or water safety education, providing all kids access to life-saving swimming skills, regardless of their ethnic or economic background. In addition to visiting Portland, the Make a Splash Tour is also making tour stops in St. Louis; Oklahoma City; Albuquerque, N.M.; San Antonio and Miami.
About the USA Swimming Foundation
The USA Swimming Foundation serves as the philanthropic arm of USA Swimming. Established in 2004, the Foundation works to strengthen the sport by saving lives and building champions. Whether we're equipping our children with the life-saving skill of learn-to-swim, or providing financial support to our heroes on the U.S. National Team, the USA Swimming Foundation aims to provide the wonderful experience of swimming to kids at all levels across the country. The Foundation also serves as the home for our National and Olympic Team Alumni reunions and regional events. The development efforts of the USA Swimming Foundation aim to establish an endowment to strengthen the future of USA Swimming's programs and services. To learn more, visit www.swimfoundation.org.
About Make a Splash
Consistent with the goal of saving lives and providing every child in America with the opportunity to learn how to swim, Make a Splash, a national child-focused water safety initiative, was created by the USA Swimming Foundation in 2007. Make a Splash partners with learn-to-swim providers across the country to provide swimming lessons and educate kids on the importance of learning how to swim. Many partner programs are located in disadvantaged or ethnically diverse communities and provide training programs (including certified instructors, resources and quality programming) to help children become water-safe and share with them a lifelong physical fitness activity. Make a Splash's awareness campaign is built around the staggering statistics that minority children ages 5-14 are most at risk for drowning, and drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 14. Make a Splash educates parents through a national awareness campaign; saves lives by joining forces with grassroots learn-to-swim programs and reaches hundreds of thousands of children through its programming, promotions and publicity tours.
About Cullen Jones
Cullen Jones is one of the fastest freestyle sprinters in the world today and currently holds the American record in the 50 freestyle. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, he was a member of the electrifying 400m freestyle relay team that broke the world record and won Olympic gold in one of the most memorable races in history. With the victory, Cullen became the second African-American to win an Olympic swimming gold medal. He is currently training for the 2012 Olympic Games and trains under coach David Marsh at SwimMAC in Charlotte, N.C.
ConocoPhillips is an integrated energy company with interests around the world. Headquartered in Houston, the company had approximately 29,900 employees, $160 billion of assets, and $244 billion of annualized revenues as of June 30, 2011. For more information, go to www.conocophillips.com. Since 1973, the company's contributions have supported the USA Swimming community through the National Championships and other international competitions, publication of club development materials, and other areas.
SOURCE USA Swimming