Nationally, Florida tops the charts for drowning deaths for children under five. That's why the Tampa Bay Rays and the YMCA partnered again this summer to teach children in the Tampa Bay area how to swim.
There was no need for water wings at the Northeast High School Pool in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, where 75 kids received medals for learning how to swim this summer. The event was part of an initiative called "Be Water Smart From the Start," a collaboration between the Rays and the YMCA to combat the ever-rising tide of drowning deaths in Florida.
Rays outfielder and Water Smart spokesperson Kevin Kiermaier said for someone who loves to swim, the initiative hits close to home.
"It means a lot to me because I was always swimming when I was younger," Kiermaier said. "And it just reminds me of my childhood, you know back when I was doing stuff like this."
David Jezek, CEO of YMCAs in St. Pete, said pool safety is relevant for all kids ready to take a dip.
"We want to make sure that children have access to quality swimming lessons, and understand all the things they need to do around the water to be cautious," he said.
So far, about 5,000 children have learned to swim through the program.