Swimming is a fun and healthy aerobic activity — and the fourth most popular sport in the United States. And while individuals like swim teacher Jonathan Strauss have always loved the activity, it isn’t the case for all of this students.
Strauss is a director at Swim Gym, a for-profit aquatic education school located in Miami-Dade County. The swim school has been successfully running for 31 years, and has been owned and operated by the Strauss family since its opening.
Through Swim Gym, Strauss often coordinates fundraisers and events, like the Swim Miami Beach event, a one-mile open-swim contest that raises funds for Swim Gym’s foundation, H20 Helping Others to Swim, which teaches children from low-income households how to swim, free of charge. Typically, the gym charges around $20 for a 40-minute instructional session.
The children who benefit from this foundation, around the ages of three through eight, are often terrified when first encountering the water.
“At first you have to pull them in,” says Strauss. “But the longer they are in the water you see their faces change from sheer terror to sheer joy.”
And it’s not all about fun and games. In Florida, drowning is a serious threat. In fact, the year 2013 saw Florida coming in at number one for the highest drowning rate in the nation for children between the ages of one and four.
According to Strauss, it takes approximately $200 and 200 hours to ensure that a child is safe from drowning. For children from low-income families, the foundation allows them to acquire vital swimming skills, so that if they fall into a body of water they can effectively get themselves to safety.
Once the funds are raised, however, transportation often becomes an issue in itself. To combat this, Strauss is seeking to follow similar models for Dade County that are employed in Broward County, where schools partner with swim schools to provide bus transportation and free water safety lessons.
“In order to make this happen, we need the communities to talk to their officials,” Strauss says.
Ultimately, Strauss hopes to empower children with the ability to swim and a means to develop a safer and more positive relationship with water.
He adds, “I am absolutely stoked when children learn how to swim. It’s ultimate euphoria to see these kids transform.”