GREENE COLUMN: More minority children are taking to the water

Swimming is a popular summer pastime, but too many African-Americans are missing out; they don’t know how to swim.

Swim meets are huge this time of year. Thousands of children participate. Noticeably absent are blacks and Hispanics.

It’s time to make a change. More blacks need to embrace swimming.

A place to start is with the young.

The sport is fun, great for fitness, and a lifesaver in areas like Charleston and the islands that are surrounded by water.

Most minority children fear the water, and too many have paid the ultimate price.

But don’t despair. Because of selfless people, things are changing slowly, one stroke at a time.

A ripple effect

A front-page story and photo Monday of children in the pool at Little Bulldog Summer Camp at Burke High School was refreshing.

Teaching water safety to a 6-year-old is a sure way to grow a lifelong swimmer. Like literacy, the teaching must start early.

Erik Kreutner of the Coastal Carolina Aquatic Association said nearly 3,000 children are on 22 teams in his group; only 5 percent are minorities.

He would like to see more children learn to swim.

I agree.

As more people join the effort to teach swimming, more children will learn to swim. And the ripple effect could be tremendous.

Shannon O’Brien, a master swimmer and retired schoolteacher, is making a difference.

She and others will teach swimming this fall at Danny Jones and Martin Luther King pools for 1,500 kindergartners and first-graders.

O’Brien said she noticed there are few minorities on local swim teams. She wants to change that by “building a community of swimmers.”

Lowcountry Aquatic Project Swimming and its sponsor, the Rutledge Children’s Foundation, pay all costs.

Others, like Linda Clarkson’s nonprofit Waterproof, teach students on Johns and Wadmalaw islands.

Still, many more are quietly making a difference. Selfless acts for sure.

A swimming priority

Parents also can start making swimming a priority in their families.

That’s what Dr. Gwendolyn Brown and her husband, Linus, did.

They are not great swimmers, but their two daughters are. Actually, Dad does not swim at all. As for Mom, “I can swim enough to save myself, but the girls are really good.”

Christina, 18, and Elizabeth, 21, are lifelong swimmers who compete in local meets and multistate minority meets in North Carolina.

Their peers refer to them as “the Venus and Serena of swimming.” They have taught many to swim.

Brown encourages parents to expose children to the water early so they are not afraid.

Swimming helps them to become well-rounded and to meet people from all over.

The family met Olympian Cullen Jones by participating in North Carolina meets.

“How awesome is that?”

Another Cullen Jones might be waiting somewhere to stick his feet in a pool.

Reach City Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555.

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