Goals and challenges

SWIMkids USA is all about reaching out to educate people about water safety, accomplishing it on many levels. As self-described “internationally and nationally recognized experts in water safety training,” they attract many speaking offers and media interview requests. They also team up with other organizations and are involved in community events.

How they did it

SWIMkids has an active speakers bureau, which travels nationally, and even internationally, to spread the word about water safety and the benefits of swimming. Company President Lana Whitehead and General Manager Melissa Sutton head out for speaking engagements at least once a month. The settings vary, from local schools and apartment complexes to groups such as Mothers of Preschoolers, church organizations, and conferences.

Another example of community involvement is Blake’s Miracle Festival, named after Blake Whitehead, a young boy who died of cancer. Each spring, SWIMkids holds the event, in which healthy kids swim laps to earn money so sick children can have integrative therapy such as massage and music therapy. For example, a musician might visit a child’s hospital room, instrument in hand, for a musical interlude.

In addition, SWIMkids is an active member of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, and has helped bring an innovative program to the state. Known as Water SMART Babies, the concept involves pediatricians writing “doctor’s prescriptions” for swim lessons on the child’s ninth and 12th month visits. Parents also are given a handbook that includes safety information. The program was featured on NBC’s “Today” show and a camera crew traveled to the SWIMkids facility to film a class for mothers and babies.

Local media routinely seeks out SWIMkids for stories on water safety topics. Whitehead has been interviewed by reporters in TV studios as well as at poolside (above). Getting the word out is especially important in Phoenix, where owning a backyard pool is nearly the norm. The area also has a growing Spanish-speaking population, as well as a significant Muslim community. To ensure that minorities aren’t left out, many of the swim instructors speak Spanish, and the facility plans to conduct a Spanish-language outreach going forward. In the meantime, they alert Spanish-language TV stations when they have important swim safety stories to share, and the stations will send reporters to interview the bilingual instructors.

In the case of the weekly Ladies Swim classes for Muslim women, special considerations have been made. For example, the women wouldn’t be comfortable in a learning environment with men present, so the facility offered classes during the slow lunch period, and no male clients or staff members were in the building. The classes imparted basic learn-to-swim techniques, then helped the students build and perfect their strokes.