By: Jarret Romanello, The St. Lucie Post
Photos: Jackson Romanello – Student Photographer
June 5, 2021
(FORT PIERCE) Kids across St. Lucie County are learning to swim thanks to a partnership between the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, the Board of County Commissioners, Safe Kids, and the Florida Association of Swimming Pool Builders – Treasure Coast Chapter.
The program allows participants to make new friends while splashing with deputies at Lincoln Park and Lakewood Park Pools in Fort Pierce and the Ravenswood Pool in Port St. Lucie.
Nationwide, each year 800 children drown in a pool, and with the majority of those accidents occurring in the summer, the Sheriff’s Office is teaching kids to stay afloat as school lets out.
“It is so nice to see the change in the students. When they come in, they are scared of the water, and after a couple of days, we can see their confidence building, said Deputy Maegan Richardson, the program’s lead instructor.
Seventeen Sheriff’s deputies are certified Red Cross swim instructors, and Chief Deputy Brian Hester credits them with the program’s success. “These deputies create a trusting relationship with the students and their parents so kids can learn to swim in a safe environment,” Hester said.
Classes filled quickly with kids age 6-17 years old, but the Sheriff’s Office has a waiting list for the remaining sessions this summer and will offer the course again in the fall. “We continually seek ways to engage our youth through positive extra-curricular and recreational activities,” said Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Wes Harbin.
The first Learn to Swim Camp was held in May, just before St. Lucie County opened all county pools for the summer on Memorial Day weekend. The courses will continue in June at Ravenswood Pool in Port St. Lucie and in July at Lakewood Park Pool. County pools are open from May 29th – August 8th.
The Sheriff’s Office has hosted Learn to Swim classes for the past five years and looks forward to continuing the program in the future. “We make the health and safety of swimmers a top priority in St. Lucie County,” Chief Deputy Brian Hester told The St. Lucie Post.
Linda Ingram is excited that her granddaughters Alayah and Asaria Rahmaing learned to swim at the camp. Ms. Ingram grew up in Lincoln Park and says, “We never had anything like this growing up. It’s great that the Sheriff’s Office takes the time to teach our kids water safety.”
For Detective Richardson, teaching kids to swim is a personal passion and a great way to give back to the community. Richardson says, “We want kids to have a great summer and swim safely.”
Detective Richardson reminds parents never to leave a child unattended in a pool. “By adding layers of protective barriers like fencing and alarms and by designating “water watchers” when kids are swimming, you can significantly reduce the risk of an accident this summer,” Detective Richardson said.