YMCA fights rise in drowning deaths with free swim lessons

It is surely going to feel like summer this weekend as dangerous heat takes hold. 

The FOX 5 Storm Team is forecasting the hottest weekend of the year so far. 

To beat the heat, some will head to a pool or lake, but it also comes with some dangers with drowning deaths on the rise. 

A local organization wants to change that and, in some cases, is offering free swimming lessons. 

Parents tell FOX 5 they are happy to have the lessons available. 

"Anything can happen here, so it’s important for her to know how to swim and then also know safety precautions," said Joshua Mason, whose 7-year-old daughter is learning how to swim. 

Summer swimming can be dangerous if you don’t know how to properly swim.

Summer swimming can be dangerous if you don’t know how to properly swim.  (FOX 5)

Mason says his goal is for her to learn what she needs to stay safe. 

"At least for her to know how to pull her head underwater and swim back to safety," he said. 

SEE ALSO: Father’s Day weekend to be hotter than normal, air quality alert 

The YMCA says it is the largest provider of swimming lessons in the country. So far this year in the Atlanta area, it has taught more than 8,000 lessons with plans to double that number this summer. 

"Learning to swim is a must, not a want, and so every child needs to have those skills," said Megan Benvenuto from the YMCA of Metro Atlanta. 

The YMCA of Metro Atlanta offers paid classes as well as free ones and scholarships. It says each summer they see more of a need. 

"Every year, aquatics directors across Metro Atlanta try to figure out a way to bring on more staff, get them trained, get everyone certified, so they can go out and provide these quality lessons to the kids that need it the most," Benvenuto said. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, after dropping for decades, drowning deaths have been increasing since 2020, up about 10% from before the pandemic. The agency says drowning is the leading cause of death among kids ages 1 to 4 and the second leading cause among children up to age 14. 

"Nobody should lose a loved one to drowning and I think what's really important to note is that drowning is preventable," said Dr. Tessa Clemens. 

Dr. Clemens is a drowning prevention researcher at the CDC. She’s also a former lifeguard and swim instructor. 

"We certainly don't want to see drowning numbers increasing, and we know that it's never too late to learn how to swim," she said. 

Besides learning to swim, experts recommend that someone should always supervise swimmers in the water and pools should have barriers and alarms. 

Drownings can occur in less than a minute and oftentimes kids are the victims. 

That is why so many organizations worry about the numbers rising. 

If you are interested in a swim class from the YMCA, click here.