ROCKAWAY PARK, Queens (PIX11) – Knowing how to swim is an essential life skill that isn’t easily accessible to everyone, so on Tuesday at The Rockaway Hotel, children from Queens shelters received free swimming lessons to help them learn a new survival skill.
“A lot of these youth that have come here today have never been in the pool before,” said Charelle Hassell-Gilbert, the president of the Queens Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
The sorority fundraised to secure goggles, swim caps and swimsuits for all the children which the new swimmers are able to keep.
This opportunity provides a different form of exercise for the kids while enjoying a new hobby they may not have had the chance to enjoy otherwise.
The lessons are taught by non-profit organization Rising Tide Effect, which teaches water safety.
According to the CDC, more children ages 1 to 4 die from drowning than any other cause of death besides birth defects.
“The hotel’s goal, it’s really to build confidence in the community and teach kids about the water, how to be in the water, how to feel confident and how to enjoy it,” said Margo Comis, director of guest experience at The Rockaway Hotel.
The lessons start by getting the children comfortable in the water by floating and learning to breathe. Once settled, they add in some kicking, paddling and strokes.
Sharon Lew is a team member with Rising Tide Effect. “For some, they were really scared in the beginning,” Lew said. “[They] didn’t even want to get in and then they’re just jumping in my arms. It’s just incredible.”
Tani Jarrette, 8, loves the pool. “I did good,” Jarrette said. “First, I was scared and now I’m not. I’m feeling confidence no matter what.”
Parents like Jeremy Irizarry are proud of what their kids have accomplished. “She was afraid of the water before and now she dips her whole head underwater and now she’s like a fish,” Irizarry said.
To help combat food insecurity, breakfast is provided by the hotel with a to-go lunch bag by the Food Bank for New York City, which coordinated the swim lessons.
“Food Bank continues to be innovative in its approach to not only providing meals all throughout New York City in its five boroughs but also being able to provide resources to those that are not able to obtain them,” said Maddie Diaz, associate director of media relations for the Food Bank for New York City.
Irizarry wants other parents to know that their child experiencing different activities is only for the best. “Don’t be afraid to open up to new things especially when it comes to swimming,” Irizarry added. “It’s a survival technique.”
This is the last week of lessons for the summer, so organizers are hoping that by next summer, the kids are feeling good enough to swim in the ocean at Rockaway Beach.