News May 15, 2018

New program will offer all area 3rd graders free swim lessons

Every third-grader can get free swim lessons next school year.

Local Windermere agents, owners and the Windermere Foundation raised $10,000 to pay for Make a Splash, a new initiative started by the USA Swimming Foundation which aims to save children’s lives through swimming lessons.

The program, already adopted by several YMCAs in Washington state, will provide six to eight weeks of free swimming lessons to all third-grade students in the Stanwood-Camano School District next school year.

However, details of the program are still being developed, said Mary Bredereck, Stanwood-Camano YMCA executive director.

“In this community, we are surrounded by water,” Bredereck said. “So it’s important for our children to have exposure to water in a controlled environment — allowing them to conquer any fears they may have as well as provide them with the physical skills they need for safety.”

The program targets third-graders because research indicates that 8-year-olds are at a pivotal point in their development. Formal swimming lessons reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88 percent, according to a 2009 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“It’s a lasting character-builder for them,” Bredereck said. “Conquering fears, achieving goals, and along the way discovering a fun and healthy activity sets children on a positive trajectory for the rest of their life.”

Randy and Marla Heagle, owners of Windermere Real Estate Stanwood/Camano, kicked off the fundraising mission. Windermere agents raised more than $2,500, which the Heagle’s — and then the Windermere Foundation — matched to total $10,000.

“There’s a lot of economic diversity in our community,” Marla Heagle said. “Yes, we have families living in million-dollar homes, but we also have a substantial population in need of assistance. When families are fighting to provide basic needs for their children, oftentimes swimming lessons just don’t make the cut.”

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.