A self-described “lifer” in the sport of swimming, Kim O'Shea is a woman on a mission with “oodles of potential.” As program manager of USA Swimming’s Make a Splash, perhaps the largest-ever aquatics, learn-to-swim and water safety promotional campaign, O’Shea is directly responsible for bringing aquatics to many kids and communities that would not otherwise have access.
“To date, we’ve been able to give scholarships to more than 10,000 kids — in Atlanta, Houston, Chicago and a few other cities — thanks to generous private donations to the USA Swimming Foundation,” she notes.
O’Shea herself started swimming around age 7 and competed all the way through college. She coached for more than a decade, ultimately serving as the women's assistant coach at the University of Tennessee. She joined USA Swimming in 2001.
Today O’Shea is responsible for coordinating partnerships between local learn-to-swim programs and the USA Swimming Foundation. Initially, that involved providing a promotional kit to help the local agencies with marketing their aquatics programs, but recently that changed. Last autumn, she helped oversee the distribution of $50,000 in grant money to a pool of 51 applicant groups.
The earlier funds that went to provide swim lessons in Atlanta and Houston (and the other cities) were donated privately, so this marks the first time Make A Splash will act as a granting agency.
But, according to O’Shea, there’s still a long way to go. The ultimate goal is “to get every kid in the United States to learn to swim,” she says. While Make A Splash is starting with the learn-to-swim branch of aquatics, the ultimate plan is to bring new partners and perspectives into the mix.
“There are so many other groups we can reach out to,” she observes. Some of the issues O’Shea hopes to address going forward include developing parent education and finding solutions for transportation issues — the logistics of physically getting underprivileged kids to the pool.