High School Student Helps Drive YMCA’s Bilingual Water Safety Initiative

Safety Around WaterSubmitted Image

JENNERSVILLE, PA — In observance of National Water Safety month, the YMCA of Greater Brandywine (YGBW) and LCH Health and Community Services have come together to introduce a bilingual water safety program aimed at adults. The unique program, held at the indoor pool at the Jennersville branch and in LCH’s offices, originated from a collaborative project involving a local high school student.

The driving force behind the initiative is Madelyn DiBonaventura, a devoted swimmer and rising junior at Villa Maria Academy. DiBonaventura conceived the idea for the water safety program and actively fundraised for it, working with the YMCA staff to make her dream come real in the local community.

“It was a joy to work alongside Madelyn,” shares Mackiewicz. “Because of her passion for swimming and water safety, Madelyn wanted to fundraise to increase water safety skills in our community. We decided to focus on teaching adults because the YMCA is already well-known for offering swim lessons for children. We also offer lessons for adults – but isn’t widely known.”

“Madelyn gave us the opportunity to extend our Safety Around Water program to adults, which is not something that we’ve done before,” continues Mackiewicz. “At a young age, Madelyn embodies many of our core values – responsibility, caring and respect. I’m so proud of her.”

DiBonaventura’s passion for swimming and water safety fueled her desire to increase water safety skills in the community. Despite YMCA’s reputation for offering swimming lessons to children, DiBonaventura wished to focus on adults, a group that is often overlooked in terms of water safety education.

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Aside from conventional swimming lessons, YMCA provides a Safety Around Water program that imparts crucial water safety skills to local children at no cost, thanks to generous donations to their annual campaign. With DiBonaventura’s contribution, they were able to extend this program to adults for the first time.

In order to carry out this extension, YGBW collaborated with LCH Health and Community Services. The joint effort resulted in a safety program that included a bilingual informational session and in-pool instruction at the Jennersville YMCA. The program taught participants not only how to swim, but also how to rescue loved ones in water-related emergencies.

According to Ronan W. Gannon, CEO of LCH, the collaboration with YMCA was a source of pride for LCH and served as a great opportunity to promote health and safety for adults and children in the community. The program reached a significant amount of people, with one participant mentioning that she had learned how to save a loved one from drowning, and two others stating that they had never been in a pool prior to the program.

With the onset of pool and beach season, the importance of the program is amplified. As stated by John Holets, Director of Aquatics for the Jennersville YMCA, not only have the participants learned how to keep themselves safe, but they will also be able to keep their friends and family safe in and around water.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that drowning is the leading cause of death for children aged 1-4 in the United States. Moreover, over 15% of adults nationwide do not know how to swim, and more than half have never received a swimming lesson. This program aims to reduce these numbers by educating adults about water safety.

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YGBW’s annual campaign in aid of the Chester County community is currently ongoing. The campaign funds scholarships for essential services like swim lessons and childcare, and last year it provided $2.2MM in financial aid to over 11,000 community members.

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