USA Swimming Foundation, Olympic Champions and Chicago Park District Join Forces to Reduce Risk of Child Drownings

Pools in the City of Chicago open on Friday, June 12, and in conjunction with that milestone, the USA Swimming Foundation and Chicago Park District partner to bring the Make a Splash Tour presented by Phillips 66 to the Windy City to save lives through swim lessons. Learn to Swim awareness activities will take place this week, June 11-13, throughout Chicago.

Rowdy Gaines chats it up with Tyler Clary before the start of finals (photo: Mike Lewis, Ola Vista Photography)

Rowdy Gaines, USA Swimming Foundation Ambassador (photo: Mike Lewis, Ola Vista Photography)

The USA Swimming Foundation and Chicago Park District have set a goal to teach 25,000 Chicago children to swim this summer through the Make a Splash initiative. The child-focused water safety campaign is designed to educate parents, kids and communities about the importance of learning to swim. Make a Splash also provides the opportunity for every child in America to learn to swim – regardless of race, gender or financial circumstances

Child drownings are an alarming epidemic where drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under 14. Six fatal drownings have occurred in the state of Illinois over the last two months, just a sampling of the 10 drownings per day that take place nationwide.

“With more than 20 miles of lakefront, numerous boathouses and dozens of beaches and outdoor pools throughout the city, Chicago residents and visitors have access to a variety of recreational opportunities on the water, including swimming,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “That said, safety is our top priority, which is why the Chicago Park District offers free and low-cost swim lessons to ensure that children and families have the ability to learn this life-saving skill; partnering with the USA Swimming Foundation will help us further educate the public about the importance of swim lessons.”

The weekend of events is highlighted by Olympic medalists Cullen Jones, Winnetka-native Conor Dwyer, Chicago-native Christine Magnuson, Rowdy Gaines and Jessica Hardy. Along with visits to eight USA Swimming Foundation Make a Splash local partner pools, which includes five Chicago Park District sites, the USA Swimming Foundation will create a 3-D mural of a pool at Pioneer Court to raise awareness of the importance of swim lessons.

Chicago area events include the following:

Thursday, June 11

7 pm – Conor Dwyer and Cullen Jones throw First Pitch at Wrigley Field before Chicago Cubs-Cincinnati Reds game

Friday, June 12

10:30 am – Make a Splash press conference, unveil of 3-D mural of a pool at Pioneer Court, N. Michigan Ave. at the Chicago River

Noon – Make a Splash invite-only luncheon at Lou Malnatis, 1120 N. State Street

4 pm – Olympians, Make a Splash volunteers distribute 725 swim caps at 3-D pool mural at Pioneer Court, N. Michigan Ave. at the Chicago River, to signify the number of number of national Make a Splash providers and the unfortunate number of child drownings every year

Saturday, June 13

9-10:30 am, Chicago Park District, Make a Splash Local Partner Pool Visits
Portage Park (Conor Dwyer): 4100 N. Long Ave.
Homan Square Park (Jessica Hardy): 3517 W. Arthington St.
Humbolt Park Pool (Christine Magnuson): 958 N. Sacramento Ave.
Foster Park (Cullen Jones): 1440 W. 84th St.

2-3:30 pm, Make a Splash Local Partner Pool Visits
High Ridge YMCA of Metro Chicago (Jessica Hardy): 2424 W. Touhy Ave.
Washington Park Pool (Conor Dwyer): 5531 S. Martin Luther King Dr.
Irving Park YMCA of Metro Chicago (Christine Magnuson): 4251 W. Irving Park Rd.
Chicago YMCA South Side (Cullen Jones): 6330 S. Stony Island Ave.

“One drowning is one too many. Knowing how to swim can be the difference between life and death, as formal swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent,” said Debbie Hesse, Executive Director of USA Swimming Foundation. “Drowning is such a big problem, including in Chicago, but it’s 100 percent preventable. The USA Swimming Foundation and Phillips 66 are coming to Chicago communities to educate people and make learning to swim a life skill all children can easily acquire this summer.”

Alarming Drowning Statistics
Approximately 10 people drown every day in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with nearly 25 percent children younger than 14

70 percent of African-American and 60 percent of Hispanic/Latino children cannot swim, according to a national research study by the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis

Only 13 percent of kids who come from a non-swimming household will ever learn to swim, the USA Swimming Foundation found

African-American children drown at a rate nearly three times higher than their Caucasian peers, the CDC reports
Drowning is a silent killer—most young children who drowned in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time, according to the Present P. Child Drowning study

With more than 725 ‘Make a Splash’ local providers across the country, the USA Swimming Foundation has provided swim lessons for more than 3.3 million children nationwide and granted more than $3.6 million for free and reduced-cost swim lessons.

Since 1973, Phillips 66’s contributions have supported the USA Swimming community through National Championships and other international competitions, publication of club development materials, and many additional endeavors. The Make a Splash Tour, which the company has sponsored since the program’s inception in 2009, is a natural extension of its dedication to safety.

The USA Swimming Foundation raises funds to support programs that save lives and build champions–in the pool and in life. As the philanthropic arm of USA Swimming, the USA Swimming Foundation works to strengthen the sport from grassroots to gold medals. If your child cannot swim or you would like to help others learn this critical life-saving skill, visit to find a local partner offering affordable swim lessons.

About the USA Swimming Foundation
The USA Swimming Foundation serves as the philanthropic arm of USA Swimming.  Established in 2004, the Foundation works to strengthen the sport by saving lives and building champions— in the pool and in life. Whether we’re equipping our children with the life-saving skill of learn-to-swim through our Make a Splash initiative, or providing financial support to our heroes on the U.S. National Team, the USA Swimming Foundation aims to provide the wonderful experience of swimming to kids at all levels across the country. To learn more, visit

About Make a Splash
The USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash initiative is a national child-focused water safety campaign, which aims to provide the opportunity for every child in America to learn to swim. Through Make a Splash, the USA Swimming Foundation partners with learn-to-swim providers and water safety advocates across the country to provide swimming lessons and educate children and their families on the importance of learning how to swim. The USA Swimming Foundation has invested millions of dollars to provide grants to qualified Local Partner learn-to-swim programs, to spread national awareness, and to bring together strategic partners to end drowning.  To date, more than 3 million children have received the lifesaving gift of swim lessons through the USA Swimming Foundation Make a Splash Local Partner network, comprised of more than 700 qualified lesson providers across the nation. To learn more, visit

USA Swimming Foundation

Swimming News is courtesy of USA Swimming.

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5 years ago

how exciting! my work building is abut against pioneer court… and they’re already preparing:

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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