July 18, 2016

Nonprofit accepts more children for free San Rafael swim program

Olivia Greenberg, of Corte Madera, is dedicating 32 hours at the San Rafael High School pool this summer.

The 14-year-old is one of nearly 50 middle and high school swim professionals giving time to teach low-income children how to swim.

“You get satisfaction knowing you’re helping people,” said Greenberg, a competitive swimmer with Fairfax’s North Bay Aquatics. “And they can use the skill to develop future passions in their lives and survival skills.”

For the fifth year, the nonprofit, Pacific Coast Marlins Learn to Swim, is getting kids, ages 3-8, in the pool to learn basic swim skills at no cost.

The program is linking roughly 95 Marin kids with volunteer swim instructors and lifeguards, who are teaching the skills of kicking, blowing bubbles and breathing underwater.

Community Action Marin’s Childcare Center has benefitted from the program since it first launched in 2011.

This summer marks the first time the nonprofit has included another child-care group in its instruction.

The nonprofit organization raised $3,000 for youth of the Pickleweed Community Center’s Kids Club to be bused to San Rafael High School for three weeks to benefit from the lessons.

For the center’s 45 kids to participate, the cost of the summer program doubled, said Andrea Salmi, president of the nonprofit.

The organization raised enough funds through donations and grants to fund the additional participation, Salmi said. The goal is to continue fundraisers this summer so Kids Club attendees can continue to participate next summer.

With drowning being one of the leading accidental causes of death in children, it is imperative they learn how to swim, regardless of where they come from, Salmi said.

“A lot of kids have pools in their apartment complexes, and the kids don’t know how to swim and their parents don’t know how to swim either and can’t teach them how to swim,” she said. “We want to offer them this life skill that teaches them to be safe.”

For Mahealani Bernes, site supervisor of Canal Childcare Center, the opportunity is a blessing for families, she said.

“For the parents, they feel okay now,” she said. “They can feel a little safer when their child is by the water. They know a little bit, they can float, they can kick, they can yell, they can blow bubbles, they feel comfortable with their heads underwater. They can have the confidence their kids will be a little safer.”