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Operation Splash kicks off in L.A.

June 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The official start of summer is just days away. The city of Los Angeles and Kaiser Permanente are getting a head start, with a free swimming program for kids. It's called Operation Splash, a learn-to-swim project for area youth.There was a spectacular splashy ribbon cutting as residents of South Los Angeles soaked in the celebration Friday. It has been nearly a decade since the Harvard Park area has had a pool.

"It has been about ten years. This is great because we do not have to go anywhere else. We can stay in our own community and enjoy the pool," said Lishonda Burris, resident.

The mayor and the Department of Recreation and Parks kicked off the grand opening of the Jackie Tatum Aquatic Center. It will provide learn-to-swim scholarships and lifeguard programs to more than 6,000 city youth.

"In some communities learning how to swim is just taken for granted. Every kid learns how to swim. We know that is not true in all communities," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

African American and Latin American kids have historically low participation in aquatic activities. Sixty-percent of these children do not know how to swim.

The facility was built with these communities in mind.

"It is going to buy health for them. If you swim that is an opportunity to learn new things. Also you keep yourself safe from the water," said Mary Bingham, L.A. Recreation and Parks.

"It is important for kids to learn how to swim. I don't even know how to swim. So it is important for me too," said Burris.

Kaiser Permanente helped pay for the two-story waterslide and it has teamed up with the city to provide the life saving lessons.

"This program is going to allow for another 6,000 young people and their families to learn how to swim because it is really part of a larger effort to stay healthy for the rest of your life," said Dr. Benjamin Chu.

Kids will get to swim for free all summer long. Adam Andrade, 11, is a swim lesson graduate.

"When you are in water and drowning just try to stay up. Do not try flapping your arms because you might keep drowning more. So just stay calm and wait until the lifeguard comes to rescue you," said Andrade.

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