A new summer program is providing kids from low-income families, free snacks alongside an opportunity to learn how to swim.
Calgary Swims for Lunch was the brainchild of a lifeguard at the Forest Lawn open air pool, who collaborated with the Calgary Food Bank and Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids. Makena Hind says the previous summer, a number of the children who went to the pool were so ravenous they would approach lifeguards for food.
Makena says “they’d show up without breakfast or they didn’t have dinner the night before.” Many of the kids who attended the basic swimming and water safety programs has been given a free brown-bag lunch during the school year” Hind added.
“I think, probably the first kid that talks to you about it, it’s kind of like sad. But by the tenth kid last summer, I was like, this is a real problem, how can I feed these kids?” Hind later came up with the idea of teaming up with the Calgary Food Bank and Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids to offer sandwiches and snacks at the public pool as they’re teaching children the basic aquatic skills.
Since the system was launched, volunteer Olivia Graham says she has seen a change. “They seem happier when they show up, happier when they leave” she added.
Seven-year-old Amy Cornelia, who experience her first swim in a pool a week ago, is among around 30 kids who were referred to the project and can hardly wait to return. Amy excitedly says “I don’t know how to do cannonballs yet and I really want to learn how to, so I’m going to try and try to learn how to do cannonballs, and when I do cannonballs I will get water through my nose but I’ll try not to.”
Hind hopes to attract more volunteers in hopes that they can reach more kids. This year will be Calgary Swims For Lunch’s very first summer. The program will run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for an hour from 12:00om to 1:00pm, ages 7 to 17. Preregistration and waiver forms are required for participation, as the program has really spun off and has become a really popular space limited and based on the number of volunteers. Though the program runs for the entire summer, kids do not have to participate for the whole summer. Kids are allowed to drop in for lunch even if they’re not participating in any water activities, all they have to do is hand in their waiver form. The program operates from the Forest Lawn Outdoor Pool.
Calgary Swims For Lunch hopes to offer a safe place for youth to lunch while developing or enhancing their knowledge about swimming and water safety.