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Clowns step up to help Roseville's "Operation Swim"

Older swimmers raise money for city?s program for kids in need
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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It was a depressing sight to see: Kids swimming in shorts and T-shirts at Johnson Pool in Roseville.

The city's Senior Parks and Recreation Supervisor Kate Rebello observed the scene last year during free family swim night, which is held twice weekly from mid-June to August. The event usually hits capacity with about 185 swimmers. Rebello watched as children got out of the water and left the facility.

"They didn't have a towel," she said. "They didn't have any clothes to change into ... I got to thinking, we need to do something."

Operation Swim was soon born.

This campaign, originally known as Operation Swimsuit, began as a Roseville Parks and Recreation Department-wide effort to get staff members to donate used swimsuits outgrown by their children and grandchildren. But this effort quickly morphed into something more when Rebello realized how much people wanted to contribute.

"The majority of the response I got was brand new swimsuits," she said. "That was great that people recognized a need to help out this part of our community."

Her department hosted a boutique night, with tables of bathing suits and towels available for kids in need. But they couldn't accommodate everyone, so some children received only one or the other. There were also lots of girly swimsuits with ruffles, but not enough suits for teenagers.

The focus of this year's program is to get donations of supplies and money to clothe young swimmers and get them into free lessons. The cost of one session, bathing suit and towel: $40.

The Tommy Apostolos Fund has offered to provide 150 swimsuits for the program.

The city maintains an income eligibility list of youth 6 months to 17 years old who qualify. There are about 25 kids currently on the list, Rebello said.

A group of much older swimmers have stepped up to help. Members of the Nice 'n' Easy water aerobics class at Mike Shellito Indoor Pool in Roseville known as Cathy's Clowns have been collecting cash and recycling cans and bottles to raise money for Operation Swim.

"They heard the city had a swim scholarship program and they wanted to sponsor a couple kids," said instructor Cathy Keller.

The group, with members typically age 50 and older, had originally hoped to fund two kids. But support ballooned.

"Everyone should know how to swim," said organizer Sally Johnson, a retired teacher. "People want to help kids, they really do."

The Clowns have now raised $600 - enough money to support 15 children.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Operation Swim

What: City of Roseville program to cover cost of swimming lesson, bathing suit and towel for eligible children. $40 covers all these costs for one child.

How: To donate money, visit www.roseville.ca.us/parks

Where: Collection bins are located at Civic Center, 311 Vernon St., Maidu Community Center, 1550 Maidu Dr., Maidu Library, 1530 Maidu Dr., Mike Shellito Indoor Pool, 10210 Fairway Dr., Utility Exploration Center, 1501 Pleasant Grove Blvd. and Downtown Roseville Library, 225 Taylor St.

Info: Call (916) 774-5242