A Greenville swimmers club wanting to exercise has now become an organization that’s taught thousands of underprivileged children how to swim. Next month, the group will host its largest fundraiser: an open-water swim at Lake Jocassee.
Upstate Splash started six years ago by a group of swimmers from a club called Greenville Splash Masters. The group’s members had decided to give back to their local community, says Upstate Splash director of public relations Leslie Scott.
“We know that there’s a lot of children that don’t have the opportunities to get swim lessons,” says Scott.
With drowning one of the top causes of accidental deaths in children, the group decided to focus on that issue by partnering with local swim facilities to provide the funds necessary to give children the skills needed to stay safe in the water and learn to swim.
“[Upstate Splash raises] money. And then we give the money to local swim facility partners,” Scott explains. Those partners include the Greenville County Aquatic Complex, for example. The facilities then provide swimming lessons for at-risk children, who may not have otherwise been able to afford them.
To date, the organization has helped more than 3,000 children learn to swim, Scott says.
This year’s event will be the group’s sixth. The money raised goes directly to providing swimming lessons, according to Scott.
Though they normally bring in between 150-200 swimmers, this year they are scaling back to 135-150 due to the pandemic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for safety.
Swimmers — who Scott recommends be comfortable in the water since they’ll have to swim at least about a mile — can choose between a 1.4 and 2.4-mile swim.
Registration for the event is $65.
There were more than 3,000 fatal drownings each year in the U.S. between 2005 and 2014, according to the CDC. For children between the ages of 1-14, drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional death after car crashes.
Now, the COVID-19 pandemic might be causing an increase in drowning.
“I have heard studies that that incidents of drowning have increased already this summer,” says Scott, in part because “less people are taking swim lessons because of COVID.”
She adds that people are also not being safely supervised outside with so many people turning to outdoor recreation.
“One of our main missions is just to get the word out to be safe in the water. And, you know, we’re just here to try to raise money and teach as many kids how to swim as we can every year,” Scott says.
You can register for the Open Water Swim Meet at upstatesplash.org/register.