GEHA-Supported Swim Program Receives Outstanding Aquatic Branch Program Award

GEHA (Government Employees Health Association, Inc., pronounced G.E.H.A.) and partners at the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, KS Parks and Recreation Department, Kansas City, KS Public Schools (KCKPS) and the YMCA of Greater Kansas City recently received the annual Outstanding Aquatic Branch Program Award from the Kansas Recreational and Parks Association. The award recognizes the impact of the 2022 Parkwood Pool Learn to Swim Program, a collaborative effort to provide children with swimming lessons in an area with the worst health outcomes in the state.

In 2022, GEHA provided funding for 200 students' summer swim lessons at Parkwood Pool, the only public swimming pool in Kansas City, KS. The students participated in two, four-day instructional sessions and were provided with necessary equipment, including a swimming suit, goggles, towels and sunscreen, to support their success in the program.

“Nearly 64% of African American children nationally have low or no swimming ability. As a local organization dedicated to health and wellness, it's vital that we help improve this statistic through the continued support of programming like the Parkwood Pool Learn to Swim Program,” said GEHA President & CEO Arthur A. Nizza, DSW. “We’re honored to receive this designation which underpins our commitment to making a difference in the communities we serve.”

The USA Swimming Foundation found that 79% of children in families with a household income of less than $50,000 have little to no swimming capability, and that more than 65% of African American children would like to swim more than they do. Notably, 38% of participants in the Parkwood Pool Learn to Swim Program had never been submerged in the water prior to the lessons. Through the program, 100% of students improved their water safety abilities and gained confidence in submerging.

“Ensuring our community has equitable recreation opportunities is at the forefront of our core values,” said Unified Government Parks and Recreation Director Angel Ferrara.” We are grateful for our community partners GEHA, YMCA, and KCKPS, who helped make the Learn to Swim Program possible, but more importantly, our partners understand the importance of breaking down barriers and meeting communities where they are at. It is an honor to be recognized for KRPA’s Outstanding Aquatic Program Award, and we look forward to the continued partnerships serving our community.”

“The Y believes that all children should have the opportunity to learn to swim, regardless of their background, where they live, the color of their skin, or their access to a pool,” said Aquatics Program Director II, YMCA of Greater Kansas City Sabrah Parsons. “Thanks to our partners and our shared commitment to eliminate drowning, we're empowering our youth with lifesaving knowledge to avoid dangerous situations in the water and rescue not only themselves, but assist others when needed. Too many lives have been lost to drowning. Together, we are working against social, economic and racial barriers and empowering our youth to find the joy in swimming safely and take that with them for a lifetime.”

The Parkwood Pool Learn to Swim Program, now a part of the expanded Joe Delaney Learn to Swim Program, Presented by GEHA, will be held again in June and July 2023.