Free water safety classes to be offered to Island children this summer

King County, the Vashon Park District, the Vashon Aquatic Club and the USA Swimming Foundation are teaming up to make water safety classes available to third and fourth graders at the county pool this summer.

Thanks to a partnership among the aquatic club, the foundation and the county, the 10-week American Red Cross water safety class will be available at no charge to any Island child in the third or fourth grade who meets the criteria for free or reduced-price school lunches, said Gary Gray, president of the Vashon Aquatic Club.

Commmissioners for the Vashon Park District made a motion at their meeting last week to provide up to $2,500 to extend the free offering to every third- and fourth-grader, regardless of income level, said park district Executive Director Wendy Braicks on Monday.

“We all recognize that we live on an island, and water is all around us,” Braicks said. “It’s just really important to get people out on the water and make sure they’re safe doing it.”

Braicks said she believes the commissioners will approve the motion at their next meeting.

Gray, whose club has been offering classes and promoting swimming for 25 years, said he was thrilled that the USA Swimming Foundation chose to partner with King County to provide the safety class.

Every year, people throughout the region drown, he noted, including two this past weekend. Water safety could prevent many of those deaths, he said.

Vashon is the fifth community the foundation’s Make a Splash initiative has partnered with to bring these classes to children, Gray said.

“I’m very pleased that we can get this on Vashon,” he said. “It’s just fabulous for the community.”

There are currently 228 kids enrolled in third and fourth grade on Vashon, he said. He hopes that at least a quarter of them will enroll in the water safety course.

The class will provide some basic swimming lessons, teaching kids how to use different strokes, how to float and other fundamental safety skills, Gray said.

Gray added that he’s grateful to the King County Division of Parks and Recreation, Councilman Dow Constantine and the Vashon park commissioners for the support they’ve already offered the program.

“I think it’s a tremendous commitment they’re making,” he said.

More details about Vashon’s Make a Splash course will be on the Vashon Aquatic Club’s Web site shortly, he said. The Web site is

To learn more about the Make a Splash initiative, visit its Web site at

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