SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – Tragedy has resulted in action in the wake of the drowning of six Shreveport teens, with the announcement of a new initiative aimed at preventing more deaths. "Stewart Warner Project Swim" will bring public, private, non-profit and faith-based organizations together through an initiative dedicated to teaching and educating all, particularly disadvantaged children, how to swim.
"There are many kids who cannot afford to receive swimming lessons or pay the fees to have swimming lessons," explains Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Church Bishop Larry Brandon. "So we want to give everyone to the opportunity to learn how to swim that want to learn."
The two week, eight to nine lesson program will teach kids grades kindergarten through 12 all the basics in a certified swim curriculum used by the Red Cross. Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover says it will cost the city $35 dollars per child, which will be reimbursed through donations collected through The Community Foundation, which has agreed to manage the money and match the first $15,000 in donations. "Children in the city of Shreveport and the surrounding area will show up who express a desire to swim will be able to do so, and will do so at no cost."
The families of the six teens lost have lent their names and support to the newly formed organization. Family member Willie Blalock spoke briefly at Thursday's press conference announcing the initiative, thanking the city for the support and prayers, vowing to work closely with the organization to see that what happened to his loved ones doesn't happen to anyone else.
The city is expected to begin offering the lessons by early next summer. There are still details to be worked out. Mayor Glover says there will be a form to fill out for those who want to take free swim lessons.
A web site for the organization is still under construction (www.stewartwarnerswim.org), but is expected to be online soon. When it is up and running, information related to swimming safety and instruction available through the project will be posted, along with details on how to sign up.
Organizations wishing to be "Local Partners" in the initiative can contact the Shreveport Fire Department at 673-6650. Donations can be also be made at any Shreveport fire station, or directly to The Community Foundation.