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Saving lives, one swim lesson at a time

Roseville's Operation Swim helps kids with suits, lessons
By: Robbie Short, Press Tribune Intern
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Drop-off locations for Operation Swim
What: Monetary donations or new swimsuits and towels

Donate at the following Roseville locations:
Mike Shellito Indoor Pool,
10210 Fairway Drive
Roseville Sports Center, 1545 Pleasant Grove Blvd.
Maidu Library, 1530 Maidu Drive
Parks and Recreation Office, Roseville Civic Center, 311 Vernon St.
Roseville Press Tribune, 188 Cirby Way

Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14.

The City of Roseville aims to change that with its program Operation Swim, which provides swimsuits, towels and swim lessons to Roseville youth who either do not know how to swim or cannot afford the necessary supplies – or both.

The program started in the summer of 2011 after Kate Rebello, Roseville’s aquatics supervisor, noticed how many children were swimming in their clothes and did not have towels to dry off with at Johnson Pool.

Rebello then decided to start the program, which was called Operation Swimsuit its first year and only provided swimsuits and towels to kids at Johnson Pool during Family Night swim. The Parks, Recreation and Libraries department then decided to expand the program and rename it Operation Swim.

There are now a few different ways for families to participate in the program.

Income-eligible families may apply for the Swim Passport, which provides each approved child with up to two free sessions of swim lessons at Johnson Pool and a swimsuit and towel, or the SPARKS Passport, which is geared toward older kids who know how to swim, providing them with a free swimsuit and towel and reduced prices to SPARKS summer camps.

Operation Swim also hosts two Boutique Nights to provide swimsuits and towels at Johnson Pool, which do not require pre-qualification and consist of kids “shopping” for a swimsuit and towel. The nights were held June 19 and 26 this year.

One challenge the program has to deal with is getting the correct swimsuit sizes for kids.

“During the Boutique Nights, it is an educated guess about what sizes and how many of each size to have available,” said Pamela Allen, marketing and communications for Roseville Parks, Recreation and Libraries. “We have been known to purchase all available swimsuits in particular sizes or beach towels at various stores.”

The program is funded mostly by the community, either in the form of monetary donations or donations of new swimsuits and towels. For every $40 donated, Operation Swim provides one child with a swimsuit, towel and one session of swim lessons.

In 2011, 100 swimsuits were given away, and in 2012, 84 children received the Swim Passport and more than 160 swimsuits and towels were provided at the Boutique Nights.

Operation Swim hopes to meet its goal this year of a minimum of 100 children receiving the Swim Passport and providing over 200 swimsuits and towels.

According to the Allen, the program has a serious positive impact on the lives of the kids who participate in it.

“Providing swimming lessons to children who can’t afford it may literally be saving lives,” Allen said. “We believe that it is important to not only teach kids to swim, but also take steps to remove the stigma that they are somehow different because they can’t afford a swimsuit.”