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Dr. Carol Irwin hosts virtual “Teaching the Community to Swim” meeting

University of Memphis professor Carol Irwin hosted a virtual meeting Tuesday where she and her colleagues talked about drowning related injuries and deaths and a solution for the problem.

Irwin’s major research topic is youth swimming ability and those particularly among underserved populations who tend to drown at high rates. Some of Irwin’s research concludes that for children between the ages of 1 and 14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes.

Her research also found about 66 percent of African American children had little to no swimming ability as of 2017. This is significantly higher than the 35.8 percent of children who were white and the 44.7 percent of children who were Hispanic or Latino.

On May 31, 2008, there were two African American teenagers that drowned at an outdoor pool opening in city swimming pools in Memphis. After the drownings, 30 organizations came together to come up with a solution to prevent it from happening again.

The University of Memphis, the YMCA, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, the City of Memphis and many other partners came together and formed Splash Mid-South, formerly known as Make-A-Splash. 

Anthony Norris, who is involved in Splash Mid-South, has two daughters who competitively swam for the University of Memphis swim team. He decided he would get swimming lessons for local children who were part of minority groups.

Jamie Brunsdon, who is also involved in Splash Mid-South, attended the virtual meeting on Tuesday. Brunsdon is from England and mentioned that children are required to have at least two hours of swimming lessons a week in England. When he came to the United States, he was shocked by the numbers. 

Since the opening in 2008, Splash Mid-South has been able to provide swimming lessons for more than 5,000 children. Splash also has a developmental swim team and has graduated a number of students who went on to become lifeguards and swim instructors. Some of the children have even joined competitive swim teams. 

Splash Mid-South is currently in the works of opening their natatorium at the Mike Rose Aquatics Center. 

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