Teach swimming to save lives

Shannon Walsh O’Brien (shown here), who retired as a public school teacher in 2011 after 28 years in the classroom, and physical therapist Mark Rutledge created the Lowcountry Aquatics Project (LAPS) in 2013. (File Photo)

To the great relief of many Charleston County residents, more and more children from disadvantaged backgrounds have been given the chance to learn how to swim over the past few years.

This spread of swimming proficiency has been made possible by the increased support from Charleston and North Charleston City Councils, the Charleston County School District and various sports and pediatrics groups, who all wish to reduce local drowning rates.

As reported in Saturday’s Post and Courier, Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission Executive Director Tom O’Rourke is concerned that residents in rural areas have limited access to swimming lessons and safe swimming locations.

The PRC decision to include swimming lessons in its rural summer camp program has been a great boon, helping over 430 children learn to brave the water this year.

All of these educational initiatives have been a blessing for many families living close to natural bodies of water.

There is also the Lowcountry Aquatic Project Swimming (LAPS), an outreach program launched in 2013 which has given thousands of elementary school and kindergarten children in low-income communities the opportunity to learn how to swim during the academic year.

The siren call of a refreshing dip on a hot summer’s day is hard for children to resist, regardless of their swimming abilities.

Hopefully, plans to build pools or aquatic centers on Johns Island, at Citadel Mall and in Dorchester District 2 (among several other proposals) will help make swimming lessons more widely available and give children a safe place to cool off.