December 5, 2005

York Region launches Swim to Survive pilot program


Grade 3 students to learn basic skills required to survive an unexpected fall into water


NEWMARKETThe Regional Municipality of York today launched a pilot program to implement Swim to Survive, the drowning prevention program developed by the Lifesaving Society.  York Region’s initiative will teach Grade 3 students in participating schools across York Region the basic skills required to survive an unexpected fall into water.


“Swim to Survive fulfills our residents’ expectations that we respond to children in need,” said Regional Chair and CEO Bill Fisch.  “By working together, municipal partners, school boards and community agencies are bringing a dynamic service to those who are least able to participate in other types of programs.”


The Region’s partners in implementing this pilot program include all nine local municipalities, the York Region District School Board, the York Catholic District School Board and the Lifesaving Society.


“With ongoing, rapid population growth, York Region is adapting to the needs of new immigrant families as well as families with limited resources,” said Newmarket Mayor Tom Taylor, Chair of the Region’s Community Services and Housing Committee.  “Swimming is a life skill that children need to learn – York Region’s investment in this program means that these children will get that chance.”


During the event held in Richmond Hill’s Centennial Pool, Grade 3 students from Our Lady of Hope Catholic School demonstrated some of the steps to learning survival techniques that will be taught to 2,452 Grade 3 students from 54 schools across York Region free of charge until March 2006.  The program focuses on achieving a single skill sequence: roll into deep water, tread water for one minute and swim 50 metres.


“The swimming does not need to be technically correct, only effective enough to enable a child to survive,” said Barb Underhill, the Canadian figure skating world champion and co-founder of the Stephanie Gaetz KEEPSAFE Foundation who was also speaking on behalf of the Lifesaving Society.  “It only takes a minute, even seconds, for a child to drown.”


All nine area municipalities will provide pool time and schedule the required aquatic instructor/lifeguards.  York Region’s two school boards have recommended the schools that will participate in the pilot program and will co-ordinate student transportation and student/parent information. 


“It is a pleasure to host this event in Richmond Hill,” said Richmond Hill Mayor William F. Bell.  “This pilot program will benefit children here in Richmond Hill and across York Region.”


York Region’s Community Services and Housing Department plays a co-ordinating role and will provide the required funding for instructor and busing costs, which are expected to be $47,000 in total.  Direct instructional costs will be funded by York Region’s Community Development Investment Fund (CDIF).


The Lifesaving Society – with sponsorship from the Stephanie Gaetz KEEPSAFE Foundation – will provide classroom teacher resources, student handbooks, parent information on water safety and any aquatic instructor training required.


The Lifesaving Society is a registered charity composed of tens of thousands of individual members and over 2,000 affiliated swimming pools, waterfronts and schools.  The Lifesaving Society works to prevent drowning and water-related injury through training programs, public education and aquatic safety management services.  It has a long and proud history of teaching lifesaving skills to Canadians.


During the summer of 2005, there were an unprecedented number of drownings in Ontario.  The majority of victims were new immigrants to Canada whose families experience a lack of resources to access swimming lessons.  Children not trained in water safety and survival are particularly at risk.


Drowning is the third leading cause of death for people 60 years and younger in Canada.  More than 400 Canadians die every year in water-related incidents.


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For more information on the Regional Municipality of York and the services our Region offers, please visit our Web site at:


Media Contact:       Tim Paleczny, Corporate Communications, York Region

                                 Phone:  (905) 830-4444 or (416) 297-9696, Ext. 1238



            After hours media queries: Pager (905) 830-3302
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