Community Partner Spotlight

Community Partner Spotlight: Kenosha YMCA


June 2019

Agency Name

Kenosha YMCA

Agency Mission

To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all.

United Way-funded program

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death of children 0-4 years of age and the second leading cause for children 5-14.  Kenosha YMCA’s Safety Around Water program provides free water safety and swimming lessons to, primarily, elementary age students from Frank Elementary, Brass Community School, Ebsola, Wilson, Roosevelt, ELCA Urban Outreach, and other KUSD schools. During the three, 2-week enrichment breaks, spring and winter break, the YMCA transports/invites students for a series of eight 60-minute swimming lessons. 

Program Highlights

YMCA swim instructors teach lifesaving maneuvers to our community’s children.  If they fall or get pushed into the water, they learn to “Jump, Push, Turn, Grab” themselves to safety.  If they are unable to reach the edge, they are taught to swim, float, swim until they are safe.  The floating allows a child to calm themselves and rest during a time of panic.  The kids are also taught to respect Lake Michigan and not to jump of the pier or swim in Pike River. The Safety Around Water program could save the lives of approximately 500 students.

This year, a young lady named Gabby participated in the program.  She had never had swimming lessons before, but she really wanted to learn. Gabby was very afraid of the water and was crying about putting her face under water, but she was determined.  Gabby came to all of her lessons. She progressed to submerging with confidence and also learned to float and glide on her back and glide, float, and swim on her stomach. The next hurdle was the deep end. Again, Gabby really wanted to try to swim in the deep end, but she had tears while the fear crept back into her mind.  Gabby was the first recipient of the John Santarelli Swimming Scholarship, an extension of the Safety Around Water program, and has passed the first level of swimming lessons.  She can swim about half way across the pool, is swimming in the deep end, and her family has become members of the Y so she can continue to practice her swimming.

How does the United Way funding help your organization achieve its mission?

The Kenosha YMCA strives to provide programming for “all in the community.  Many families cannot afford swim lessons or transportation.  The United Way funding helps families from underserved populations participate in the Safety Around Water program at no cost to them.  Without the funding, some of these kids may never learn how to swim.

Our cause is strengthening community.  Educating the community and raising awareness on how to respect Lake Michigan and be safe in, on, and around water is one of the ways we fulfill our mission in the Kenosha community.  The world is 70% water and children are 100% curious. 

How can volunteers get involved? 

Volunteers can be involved by joining the Safety Around Water Coalition, which meets monthly, and was initiated but the YMCA in 2017.  The Safety Around Water Coalition strives to create a culture of healthy respect and safe enjoyment of water in the Kenosha area through education and advocacy.  Contact, YMCA Aquatics Director, Beth Volbrecht at 262-654-9622 or for more information.