ALBANY — As the mother of two youngsters — Da’Marion, 9, and Kennedy, 3, — Danielle Cutts understands all too well the importance of kids learning to swim.

“With all the water around us, kids need to know how to swim well enough to at least get themselves out of a possible dangerous situation,” Danielle Cutts said Saturday as her youngsters enjoyed the water slides set up in Riverfront Park as part of the third H20 Swim summer kickoff event. “DaMarion learned to swim a long time ago when we lived in Florida, and now I want Kennedy to learn how.”

After responding to a reporter’s questions about swim safety, Cutts sheepishly admitted that she did not know how to swim.

That, said Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler, who has spearheaded the summer Swim for Life program that has allowed hundreds of local children to sign up for free swim lessons, is the idea behind the initiative he started three summers ago.

“Kids are just naturally attracted to water,” Fowler said.

“Throw in the fact that it gets hot in south Georgia in the summertime, and you have a recipe for disaster. I just saw on TV where a couple drowned the other day. Our program, we hope, will stop those disasters from happening. Since we started the Swim for Life program, there has not been one reported child drowning in the county.

“It’s also our hope that once kids learn how to swim, they’ll encourage their parents to do the same. Everyone should learn at least enough to save someone who might be in danger of drowning.”

Whitney Russell brought her children, Chase, 4, and Chloe, 3, to Riverfront Park for Saturday’s H20 Swim for Life kickoff, where she found out kids as young as 3 were allowed to sign up for the program.

“I think it’s very important for youngsters to learn to swim,” said Russell, who is studying cosmetology at Albany Technical College after moving to Albany from Atlanta in April. “Since we moved here, we come down to the water sprinklers in the park as often as we can. The kids love it. We think this is just the best park in the world.

“Now I’d like to make sure they learn to swim and learn water safety.”

Hundreds of pairs of flip-flops were donated to Saturday’s H20 swim event by Walmart.

“We’re hoping to have some swimwear and goggles donated, too, once we see how many kids sign up for the program,” Fowler said.

“We don’t want to just put them out there for anyone to take; they might keep someone who signs up to learn to swim from getting swimwear.”

Fowler said he expected as many as 400 children to sign up for this summer’s swim lessons, which will be offered at YMCA, Albany Recreation and Parks, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany facilities.

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