8,000 participants at 35 pools gain access to healthy activity, learn water safety, and gain job training through Kaiser Permanente’s $1.5 million program
Kaiser Permanente and the City of Los Angeles have kicked-off “Operation Splash,” a healthy lifestyles partnership that provides learn-to-swim scholarships to over 8,000 youth, age 7-17, and their parents at 35 pools in lower-income communities citywide. The free program—which also provides junior lifeguard program scholarships for an additional 700 youth—provides increased access for traditionally low-participating groups, instruction in water safety, and job training.
The kick-off activities were held on June 19 at the Hollywood Recreation Center, where local youth opened the aquatics facility for the summer by going down the tall winding water slide into the pool. Three youth relay teams raced each other and were awarded symbolic gold, silver, and bronze Operation Splash medals, appropriate fun with the summer Olympics less than two months away.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, “All kids deserve the chance to have a fun and positive summer regardless of their economic circumstances. Swimming is a great thing to do. It’s an activity that does not require equipment, gear, or high fees. We will provide the free access. Visit our pools and enjoy the cool water with your family and friends.”
By the end of this third year of the Operation Splash partnership, Kaiser Permanente will have donated a cumulative $1.5 million in community benefit to the City, providing: 25,000 swim scholarships to kids and their parents; 700 junior lifeguard scholarships; two-week September extensions for three summers at selected pools; and two new water slides at pools in Northridge and in South L.A.
“People thrive when they adopt healthy lifestyles early and practice those habits consistently through time,” said Dr. Benjamin Chu, president of Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Physical activity is an essential component—especially in the fight against the epidemic of childhood obesity—and that is why we are providing this free program to thousands of kids. The activity with family and friends in a safe environment also has emotional and spiritual benefits. Operation Splash is a proactive and preventive care program to assist families in achieving good total health, a fundamental goal of Kaiser Permanente.”
The additional program benefits are many. City Council President Eric Garcetti, whose district includes the Hollywood Recreation Center, said, “Operation Splash gives at-risk kids and teens a positive place to cool off and have fun during the hot summer months. The junior lifeguard program also gives young people the opportunity to have summer jobs and prepare them for potential future jobs as lifeguards at pools or beaches.”
Jon Kirk Mukri, general manager of the City Parks and Recreation Department, added, “We’re delighted to be partnering once again for Operation Splash. Teaching families how to swim not only communicates the importance of pool safety, but it’s also about healthy and happy young people. The City and Kaiser Permanente share those goals.”
Operation Splash furthermore aims to decrease the frequency of drowning, one of the leading causes of accidental death among young people, especially for African American and Latino kids, who historically have low aquatics participation rates. For example, nearly 60 percent of African American and Latino youth cannot swim, which is twice the rate of white kids, according to USA Swimming, the sport’s governing body.
The swim program opened on the first day of summer (Saturday, June 21) and runs through Labor Day (Monday, September 1st), with an additional two weeks extended run through mid-September at seven of the 35 pools. To learn more about Operation Splash and eligibility requirements, individuals can visit the City Recreation and Parks Department website (www.laparks.org/dos/aquatic/aquatic.htm) or call toll free 888-LA-PARKS (888-527-2757). Registration is on-site at participating pool locations.
In addition to the three-year cumulative $1.5 million to the City of Los Angeles, Kaiser Permanente is expanding the Operation Splash program outside Los Angeles this year for the first time. The cities of Riverside, Fontana, and Chula Vista will each receive $50,000, providing a cumulative expansion amount of $150,000 and reaching thousands of additional lower-income swim participants outside the City of Los Angeles. Individuals interested in participating in any of these three cities can contact the jurisdictions directly for more information. Their corresponding websites are as follows:
www.riversideca.gov/park_rec/pdf/guide/aquatics.pdf www.fontana.org/main/parks_rec/aquatics_index.htm www.chulavistaca.gov/City_Services/Community_Services/Recreation/aquatic.asp.