Making a Splash

| by Brianna Kessler | Spending long days in the pool is an exciting part of any kid’s summer. But incidentally, drowning is the third most common accidental death among children. There have been more than 40 drownings this year in Texas, 14 of which occurred right here in the DFW area. Swimming lessons are an important life skill for every child that provide many benefits and could potentially save his or her life. However, many families in the Fort Worth area do not have the resources or income to provide children with this vital skill.

Fortunately three years ago, Walter Rainwater, Trustee of Rainwater Charitable Foundation, recognized this issue and established a partnership program for these children alongside Fort Worth City Mobile Recreation program, TCU and FWISD.

The mission statement of Rainwater Charitable Foundation is to help at risk children in America by finding and establishing programs that work.

“And we find children that cannot swim or do not have an opportunity to learn to swim to be at risk,” he said. “This program is opening so many doors for these children­—not only are they learning a lifesaving skill, but learning about a world class sport and connecting with TCU coaches and students at the same time.”

The six-week program provides free transportation to kids enrolled in summer classes and enrichment programs in the following eight schools: Rosemont, George C. Clark, Daggett, Seminary Hills, Morningside, Briscoe Elementary, Carrroll Peak and Van Zant Guinn.  

Classes are taught at Wilkerson Grienes FWISD Center in an Olympic-size swimming pool with TCU Coach Richard Sybesma, the program director, along with 12 instructors, five lifeguards and three supervisors.

“The instructors are really the ones who are making a difference, he said. “Kids who have never been in a pool are overcoming their fear of water and many learning to swim for the first time.”

In 2013 the program enrolled 200 kids in the summer swim program and has grown exponentially each year since reaching a total of more than 420 kids last summer.

Its newest alliance with Morningside Children’s Partnership, which is fully funded by of Rainwater Charitable Foundation, enabled the program to expand to four additional elementary schools in need.

This is a great example of using various resources and locking arms to establish a foundation for the betterment of children, said Andrew Chambers, Morningside Children’s Partnership director.

Morningside Children’s Partnership was able to enroll more than 100 kids into the program from neighborhoods with more than 70 percent of its residents living below poverty level. “Many kids were left on a wait list, Chambers said. “It has been a very successful summer, and we hope to expand next year.”

And even maybe into the fall and spring school year, according to Rainwater. But that is still in the works.