“Fill the Fin” campaign for inner-city swim lessons

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Teams of San Diego lifeguards are hitting the beaches with fins in hand as they launch a weekend-long “Fill the Fin” campaign to raise money for much-needed swim lessons for inner city youth and to spread the message of water safety.

From Friday, Aug. 3 to Sunday, Aug. 5, lifeguards are volunteering at city beaches and throughout coastal communities to collect coins and dollars in their bright-colored rubber footwear to benefit the San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation and to fund aquatic programs at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA in southeastern San Diego.

“It is estimated that 33,000 children ages 5 to 12 who live in our service area have never taken swimming lessons to develop a healthy respect for the water. And most do not even have proper swimwear,” said the local Y's Executive Director Michael Brunker. With the help of elected officials, the San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation and members of the San Diego Lifesaving Association, underserved kids from Skyline to City Heights may soon be better equipped with swimwear, aquatic safety training, and swimming lessons – as well as a more memorable summer.

“Many parents and kids in poor and minority neighborhoods haven't grown up around water and don't have access or the economic means for swim lessons,” said San Diego City Council President Tony Young. “That's why they experience a disproportionately higher rate of drowning.” In San Diego, drowning is the leading cause of non-natural death among children under 5 and nationwide the leading cause of accidental death for youth under 14. Rip currents, like the recent powerful ones that hit our beaches every summer season, are a dangerous reminder of the need to teach swimming and water safety to area youth.

In partnership with the San Diego City Lifeguards, the San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation sponsors Water Proofing San Diego, a three pronged approach to aquatic safety providing education, free swimming lessons and a day at the beach for inner city youth, as well as many other safety programs including financial support for the Junior Lifeguard Program.

According to City Lifeguard Sergeant Ed Harris, better targeted water safety messages and swimming lessons geared toward inner city kids can help reduce the number of tragedies.

“From our Junior Lifeguard to our Water Proofing education programs, we are continually looking for ways to promote aquatic safety to underserved youth throughout the City of San Diego,” said Harris, noting that many beach-area businesses are sponsoring lifeguards in the second annual fundraising drive.

San Diego City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, who represents the La Jolla beach community and is a strong supporter of improved lifeguard staffing and training, also is teaming with lifeguards to send an urgent summer message about water safety and drowning prevention to swimmers, parents and caregivers.

“Our lifeguards do a great job but water safety is everyone's responsibility,” Lightner said. “We all need to protect our youth and educate them about swim safety.”

Council President Pro Tem Kevin Faulconer, who represents Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and Mission Bay, commended San Diego lifeguards for keeping San Diegans and tourists safe not only at the beach, but also through proactive educational efforts.

“The number of San Diego children that have never taken a swimming lesson could fill more than 40 Olympic-size swimming pools,” said Faulconer.

“I encourage all San Diegans to join us to 'Fill the Fin' at any San Diego lifeguard station. Every dollar donated passes the joy of swimming to the next generation of San Diegans.”

Many community partners are saluting local lifeguards and joining this year's water safety awareness campaign, including the San Diego Padres who are hosting Petco Park Lifeguard Services Water Safety Awareness Night at the Padres on Aug. 3. A portion of group ticket sales will benefit the “Fill the Fin” effort and hundreds of city lifeguards and junior lifeguards will participate in a pregame ceremony.

Tickets for that night's baseball game can be purchased online (padres.com/promo using the promotional code Lifeguard) or by calling: (619) 795-5398.

San Diego residents and out-of-town beach visitors alike can donate money to the “Fill the Fin” campaign at lifeguard stations from Ocean Beach to Torrey Pines Aug. 3 to 5.

For collection site volunteer or business sponsorship opportunities, contact San Diego Lifesaving Association President Jeffrey Hatfield at (619) 944-4289 (or online at: Facebok.com/FilltheFin).

Donations can be made online for Fill the Fin by visiting the Junior Lifeguard Foundation web site at sdjgfoundation.org. Pledges of $50 or more to provide a child with swim wear and lessons also can be made by calling the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA directly at (619) 264-0144. For a listing of City of San Diego beaches and lifeguard services, call (619) 221-8899 or visit sandiego.gov/lifeguards.


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