CINCINNATI — Drowning is a leading cause of death for kids, and many kids don’t even know how to swim. One Over-the-Rhine program is trying to fix that by making swimming accessible.
The Over-the-Rhine Rhinos practice five hours each week at Ziegler Pool for about two months. The team, which is free of charge and happens annually, is made up of about 40 kids this summer.
“I bet at least half of our kids every year do not know how to swim,” said Emily Stowe, 3CDC Senior Event Marketing Manager.
By the end of the summer, that will change. Members of the team practice each weekday and compete in weekly swim meets. The team’s youngest swimmer is five years old, while its oldest is 15.
“It's a lot of cheering and just excitement at the end of the year when they're able to finally get across the pool,” said Emma Vansteenkiste, the team’s head swim coach.
“They basically just teach you the basics of it,” said 10-year-old Yahweh, 10. “They tell you to breathe in and out.”
The team had its first season in 2018. Part of the goal is to help kids who enjoy the water but can’t swim. And since it’s free to participate, it’s an accessible option for kids to join.
“You hear stories all the time of drowning incidents,” Stowe said. “I think that's the most important thing that we do is teach children who may not have the opportunity to come to the pool often or haven't had the opportunity to learn how to swim.”
For swimmers, the lessons learned in between lanes are just as important as the ones learned on the edge of the pool.
“You get to meet new people sometimes,” said 11-year-old Darian.
Organizers expect sign ups will open for next year’s team sometime in the spring.
“Just being able to see them grow and become really a team,” Vansteenkiste said. “We have become a family and that’s the best part every year.”
You can support the team by making a donation online here. A $50 donation will pay for the gear for one child to participate.