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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Swim for your lifestyle

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kids get into the swim with the help of Red Cross instructors. There are classes for adults, too ó but sign up early, because space is limited.

Photos courtesy American Red Cross Hawaii Chapter

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The American Red Cross' annual Summer Swim program is free and open to age 3 and older.

• Adult Learn to Swim program (for ages 14 and older), 5:15-6 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Choose from two 4-week sessions ó Session I: June 1-24 or Session II: July 6-29

• Keiki Learn to Swim program (for ages 3-13), 8:45-9:45 a.m. Saturdays. Choose from two sessions of four Saturdays ó Session I: June 5-26 or Session II: July 10-31

Where: Ala Moana Beach Park on the Magic Island side, near the showers and lifeguard station 1E

Register: Registration opens Thursday. Enrollment is limited, so register early: www.hawaiiredcross.org.

Also: Adult volunteers are needed to help with the Summer Swim program. Teens ages 14-18 may also volunteer for Summer Swim by joining the Summer Buddies program, which helps teens improve their leadership and aquatic skills, and earn CPR certification. To sign up or for more details, call 739-8179, e-mail meinelm@hawaiiredcross.org or visit www.hawaiiredcross.org.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Thereís not much different in learning to swim, whether itís 1964, above, or 2010, and the Red Cross still shows us how.

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We live our lives surrounded by an ocean.

That should be reason enough to learn how to swim.

"It's kind of like a 'duh!' thing if you live in Hawai'i ... you have to know how to swim," quipped Rachael Weinstein, 17, of 'Ewa Beach.

Do you and your keiki know how? Registration begins Thursday for the American Red Cross-Hawaii State Chapter's annual Summer Swim program. The free classes, open to adults and children, takes place in June and July at Ala Moana Beach Park.

"We would like nonswimmers to be comfortable in and around water, and allow those who have some swim ability to learn to swim better," said Mary Meinel, training and preparedness director of the American Red Cross-Hawaii State Chapter.

In Hawai'i, an average of 50 people drown and 150 people nearly drown each year, reports the American Red Cross. Drowning is the second leading cause of fatal, unintentional injuries among newborns through 17-year-olds.

"The best way to prevent these deaths is to teach kids how to swim," Meinel said. "It is a skill that must be taught because aquatic skills are not genetically inherited, but once learned, this lifetime skill will save lives."

Weinstein, a trained swimmer who's CPR-certified, will volunteer for a third year to help out with the Summer Swim program.

"The instructors really care about their pupils and do their best to help out kids who are having a hard time," said Weinstein, a junior at Campbell High School. "I would totally encourage parents and children to sign up. It's a great program."

Meinel also encourages families to register for the summer classes for several reasons.

"The program is free and outdoors, taking advantage of our beautiful beach and climate," Meinel said.

The American Red Cross, whose mission is to save lives, is a leader in aquatic training, she added.

For more than 45 years, the organization has offered free classes to accommodate those who might not otherwise be able to afford to take classes to learn how to swim.

"We first designed a formal swim program back in 1917," Meinel said. "We have been offering a free program at Ala Moana Beach Park since 1964, and before that they were held at Sans Souci Beach."

While learning how to swim is one of the best things people can do to stay safe in and around the water, there are other things families can do to ensure safety in the water this summer.

Meinel's No. 1 tip?

"Swim where there's a lifeguard, and if there isn't one, make sure you swim with a buddy," Meinel said.

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The American Red Cross-Hawaii State Chapter reminds families to follow these safety tips for staying healthy and safe in or around the water this summer:

  • Learn to swim. It's one of the best things anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water.

  • Never swim alone. Adults should practice "reach supervision," which means to be within arm's length of a child in case an emergency occurs.

  • Outfit everyone with the proper gear. Kids ó even adults ó who are not strong swimmers or who appear to rely on inflatable toys for safety should use U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices whenever they are in or around the water.

  • Always keep basic life-saving equipment by the residential pool and know how to use it. A first aid kit, cordless phone, phone list with emergency contact information, reaching pole and ring buoy with a line attached are recommended. In addition, the Red Cross recommends that pools be surrounded on all sides by a fence that is at least 4 feet high.

  • Swim in supervised areas only.

  • Watch out for the "dangerous too's." Take a break at the point of being too tired, too cold or too far from safety, and after having too much sun, too little hydration or too much strenuous activity.

  • Pack a "safety" bag for a day at the beach or lake. Water-proof sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher, water shoes to keep feet safe from the heat and sharp objects on land, and plenty of water are musts. All containers should be plastic to prevent injuries from breaking glass. Also, pack a hat and sunglasses to keep eyes safe from dangerous UV rays.

  • Learn first aid and CPR. While the above tips can help prevent emergencies, it is important to know what to do if a situation arises.
    For more information on staying safe in and around the water, visit www.hawaiiredcross.org or www.redcross.org, or call 739-8131.