As the summer temperatures climb, many families seek refuge from the heat in their local pools or beaches. However, the American Red Cross estimates that, while many kids are able to safely enjoy splashing around, nearly 61% of American children fail to demonstrate basic water-safety skills. In a nation where pools and other bodies of water are extremely accessible, these statistics are more than alarming. Matthew and Christopher Hale want to help change that.
In 2011, brothers Matthew and Christopher Hale founded Goggles for Guppies, a non-profit organization that seeks to provide at-risk children with swimming equipment in order to lessen the financial burden that keeps many children out of the water. Matt Hale hopes that, by providing these children with swimming equipment, they will be able to utilize free local swimming programs and ultimately become water safe.
The Goggles for Guppies journey began when Matt and Chris were at a swim meet in Mexico, “…We noticed the Mexican kids sitting along the fences. We decided at the end of the meet to give our caps and some of our swim gear to the kids who were sitting there… We knew that they wanted to be in the pool, and seeing them watch us in the water with such intent and desire to race [inspired us to think], ‘what if we could do this at home too?’”
Upon arriving home from that swim meet, Matt and Chris reached out to major swimming equipment manufacturers such as Speedo and TYR in the hopes that they would sponsor their organization and send them equipment. Despite some initial pushback from these corporations, the Hales finally succeeded in winning their support after officially partnering with USA Swimming.
Managing an organization such as this has required diligence and focus. In order to balance Goggles For Guppies with the demands of swim practice and school, Matt Hale says the boys have had to practice a very regimented schedule over the weekends to make sure they are able to meet the demands of the programs and children in need of the equipment. Thanks to their dedication, the Hale brothers have greatly expanded Goggles For Guppies from a local organization to one that currently serves swimming programs domestically and internationally.
The brothers’ efforts have not gone unnoticed by their communities. In 2015, the Hales were the recipients of the Golden Goggles Hero Award, and in 2017, they received the President’s Volunteer Service Lifetime Achievement Award, conferred by President Barack Obama. Matt Hale is very grateful for the awards, saying, “It meant that people are noticing what we are doing and that there is an opportunity for change. If we keep doing what we’re doing we can help lower the national drowning rate and be impactful in the long run.”
With the help of their parents, Matthew and Christopher Hale plan to maintain Goggles for Guppies as they head off to college in the fall. The brothers look forward to helping more children enjoy the freedom to swim safely and are optimistic that they can continue to expand the reach of their organization, “People… would send us photos back and we would see the smiles on the kids faces. The gratification is to see how excited these kids are about swimming.That is the reason we do this.”