inSERVICE: Teaching Kids to Swim, Community by Community


Recently the Kansas Recreational and Parks Association recognized GEHA (Government Employees Health Association Inc.) and its partners at the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, KS Parks and Recreation Department, Kansas City, KS Public Schools and the YMCA of Greater Kansas City with its annual Outstanding Aquatic Branch Program Award. The award recognizes the impact of the 2022 Parkwood Pool Learn to Swim Program, a collaborative effort to provide swim lessons to children who live 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, Kan. The students participated in two four-day instructional sessions and were provided with necessary equipment, including a swimsuit, goggles, towels and sunscreen.

GEHA (Government Employees Health Association, Inc., pronounced G.E.H.A.) is a nonprofit member association that provides medical and dental benefits to more than 2 million federal employees and retirees, military retirees and their families.

“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.

The USA Swimming Foundation has found that 79% of children in families with a household income of less than $50,000 have little to no swimming capability.

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.”

“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.”     RM