Community-owned Hyland Hills Water World prides itself in teaching children the life-saving skill of swimming.
So when we saw an urgent need for water education, we knew
something needed to be done. We just had to figure out how.
Our survey showed that 72 percent of children in our area had never
taken a water safety course and 61 percent wanted to.
Staff members formulated a proposal for a swim lesson initiative,
called the Be-A-Fish Learn to Swim Program. They envisioned
low-cost, daily half-hour swim lessons given by Water World
lifeguards in two-week blocks.
Everything sounded great — until we realized that even low
cost lessons would probably cost too much. According to the school
district’s accounting, more than 75 percent of the children
qualified for the federally funded Free and Reduced School Lunch program.
So we needed local partners to take cost completely out of the
equation. Our local school district and to its benevolent 501(C)(3)
Foundation, whose volunteer members are local business people took
up the cause. The schools publicized the program through teachers
and parents. The Foundation agreed to make the program a funding
priority. Water World provided the necessary lifeguards and facilities.
The initial program, which was piloted in just two schools, is now
offered to all of the elementary schools in the surrounding school
district. To date, 7,200 children have taken advantage of the free
swim lessons. Upon completing the program, each child receives a
congratulatory certificate of accomplishment.
Water World enjoys a good sense of social responsibility knowing
that someone’s life just might be saved from lessons. The
added public relations value doesn’t hurt either. After all,
we’ve got more than 7,000 Be-A-Fish Learn to Swim Program
Certificates (with the Water World logo big as day on them) proudly
hanging in the homes of happy new swimmers!
In 2011 our now award-winning program received a grant from Wells
Fargo Bank in Colorado enabling 250 additional kids to participate this summer.
The benefits of such partnerships are many. In this case, the
Foundation, Wells Fargo and other business contributors receive
community kudos for community engagement; the school district
benefits from children having free access to life-skill educational
learning; Water World benefits from knowing it has made a huge
contribution to the industry, to the kids; and of course to scores
of worried parents can now have more confidence as their children
1. Teach the children well. While we who are in
the water business fully understand the joys of aquatic fun, there
are still too many kids out there who are undertrained in water
safety and remain uncomfortable in water.
2. Find partners. School districts are
experiencing deep cuts, and businesses are trying to make the most
of small marketing budgets. Partnering on something like swim
lessons can be a win for all.
3. Make it cool. Spreading the word about water
safety and empowering youngsters with life-saving skills around
water will always be necessary. You’ll have more success if
you make the program fun for kids — and even hip to do.
Note: If you’d like to share a story, please send it (and the
lessons you learned) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joann Cortéz is communications director at Hyland Hills Water World in Federal Heights, Colo., which is located just 10 minutes outside downtown Denver. She has been with the community-owned waterpark for 14 years. Water World is consistently rated among the top 10 waterparks in the world, hosting more than
one-half million guests each year during its 100-day summer season.