Safety Around Water (SAW)

Take a second to reflect back on your childhood, especially during the summertime. Is there a better time of the year than summers, when you’re a kid?

There’s no school, the days are longer, it’s warmer outside, and there’s so much more to do. You’d play at the park with your friends, maybe you were signed up for baseball, and the pool was open. Maybe you and your family even took trips to the beach or the lake.

Summer is an incredible time to be a kid. But unfortunately, there are too many kids today who cannot safely participate in about half of the activities listed above.

Accidental drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in children 14 years and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, with the right skillset and lessons learned, so many of these deaths could be preventable.

YMCAs have been teaching kids the necessary life-saving skills they need for them to be safe in and around water through swim lessons and our Safety Around Water program.

Safety Around Water, or SAW, is a little different from traditional swim lessons. SAW works with communities to identify kids and families who may not be able to afford or access traditional swim lessons and teaches them essential life-saving skills at no cost to them or their families.

The YMCA of Northwest North Carolina has been awarded $94,000 in grant funding from Y-USA for this year’s SAW Program. The Y will be able to serve 1,400 children across 14 branches. This is the largest grant for SAW that the YMCA of NWNC has ever received. The second largest grant for SAW was $57,000 that served 1,105 children in 2019.

Access to quality swim lessons has other barriers to it besides socioeconomic status. Race and geographical settings also play into the inequity of accessing swim lessons that could one day mean life or death for a child. Youth of color are at least three times more likely to drown than their counterparts, according to the CDC.

We are thrilled to announce that during the week of May 24th-28th our Ys will offer the SAW program, free of charge to the community. Registration will begin April 26th and is open to children ages 5-12 years old. To register and to see if your family qualifies, please visit, or talk to someone at your local Y.

And while teaching 1,400 children in our Y Association the ability to swim seems like a great undertaking—and it is—we’re only scratching the surface of where we need to be.

There are thousands of children in our communities who could benefit from SAW. And there are thousands of families who could benefit from the comfort and ease of mind, knowing that their children are safer when they go to the pool, beach, lake, or any other body of water. An additional benefit worth noting is that when a child learns a skill such as swimming and can overcome the daunting challenge of swimming the length of a pool, they have a new sense of confidence that can then be transferred to other aspects of their lives. This program literally transforms lives.

We’re asking you, our members, our donors, and our neighbors for your help in making sure we can serve as many families as possible through SAW. If you are interested in making a donation to the Y, or learning more about this life-saving and life-changing program, please contact Amy McCarter at

Together, we can make sure more kids and families can look back fondly on their summertime experiences, just as so many of us can.



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