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Bridgeport kids learn swimming safety at Cardinal Shehan Center

May 19, 2019

BRIDGEPORT — More than 100 local children learned safety swimming tips, and some even learned how to swim on their own, during free swimming classes offered in the city this spring.

On Friday, about 150 Bridgeport youth graduated from the spring session of the free swim camp offered at the Cardinal Shehan Center. The program was made possible through the Bridgeport Health Department, with funds provided by a two-year U.S. Consumer Protection/Pool Safely grant.

The center’s executive director, Lorraine Gibbons, and Bridgeport’s director of public health & social services, Maritza Bond, admitted to the children participating in the swim program this spring that they didn’t know how to swim either.

So on the week of May 13, during the week-long swimming lessons, Gibbons and Bond took the plunge with the kids and went through a swimming lesson with them.

“We’re the largest urban city with the most access to water,” Bond said of Bridgeport. “It was important to me that we provided these free classes.”

The grant allows the center to host the classes free of charge. The children were divided up based on age groups.

Every day, an estimated 10 people die in unintentional drownings in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those 10, the CDC said, two are children 14-years-old or younger. Drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S.

Fire and police representatives even gave pointers to the children during their lessons, Bond said. And four firefighters were present for the graduation ceremony, where the youth each received a certificate of completion.

One firefighter urged the children to “encourage your friends, don’t tease them ... encourage them to take classes and learn.”

An estimated 30 children will continue with swimming lessons through the fall, Bond said.

She said she hopes to see adults classes in the future at the center.

“When we asked the children’s parents who knew how to swim, only a few said they knew how,” Bond said. “We want to offer them classes in the future.”

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