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Seeing racial disparities in drownings, YMCA and Jack and Jill group partner for swim safety event

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AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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The Bloomington-Normal YMCA and Jack and Jill of America are hosting a free JJ Swims Water Safety event from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at the YMCA.

The event is aimed to focus on water safety and emphasizing swim lessons to children to prevent drowning, especially for children of color. Children of color are more than five times more likely to drown than white children.

“We’ve realized that Bloomington-Normal has experienced fatalities in the Black community with our Black children due to drowning,” said LaShonna Harden, vice president of the Bloomington-Normal Jack and Jill chapter. “It’s all about awareness, it’s all about education and really pushing forward this cause ... that it is a life skill and Black kids need to know how to swim.”

Although Saturday’s event focuses more specifically on children of color, all are welcome to attend.

Drowning is the lead cause of unintentional death in young children. The YMCA and JJ Swims are hoping to raise awareness around water safety for children of color.

“The initiative is making sure our Black community understands that swimming and water safety is essential. Black children are five times more likely to die due to drowning compared to white counterparts,” Harden said.

The first 100 children to register will receive one month of swimming school at the YMCA for $10. They will also receive membership rates on their second and third months of swimming school.

All children participating in the event will be placed in a raffle. The top three winners will receive three months of swimming school for free.

Registration in advance is recommended any time before the event. It can be done over the phone, in person or online. Those with questions or concerns can contact Harden at (309) 557-4653.

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Marissa Harvey is a reporting intern at WGLT. She joined in the spring semester of 2022.