Fry's Spring Beach Club Offers Swimming Scholarships
Children who don't know how to swim can feel left out of many summer activities. What's worse is this can leave them at risk for serious accidents.
That's why the Fry's Spring Beach Club is offering scholarships to kids, many from other countries, who otherwise might not have the opportunity to learn this lifesaving skill.
"A lot of the kids that we had met didn't know how to swim at all, you know, they were from refugee camps in Africa and their parents had never swum. Their families were very afraid of the water," said swim coach Clara Bullard.
So starting with just one kid sponsored by swim team families, little by little a scholarship program began.
Ayat Mohamed is one of the scholarship swimmers. He was born in a refugee camp in Kenya in 2001, to Somalian parents who were forced to leave their home country during the civil war.
Mohamed's family later moved to Charlottesville through the help of the International Rescue Committee. In the past few years, Mohamed has gone from not being able to swim at all to being a strong competitor in the Jefferson Swim League meets.
"When I started I was afraid I was going to drown or something and then I got in the water and it felt good and then I wasn't scared anymore," he said.
The Fry's Spring Beach Club's swim team includes over 25 scholarship swimmers from Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Several of these swimmers, like Mohamed, moved to the U.S. with their families from other countries such as Somalia, Tanzania, Mexico, and Ethiopia.
The vast majority of scholarship swimmers came onto the team with little or no swimming experience, many from non-swimming families. For those kids, the club waives the $800 membership fee, and provides scholarships for the fee to join the swim team.
"I used to be the slowest swimmer, but then I got faster and now I'm better than most of the people now," said Hussein Osman, another scholarship swimmer.
Many of the kids spend their entire summer at the Fry's Spring pool. "We come at morning, when it opens, all the way until it closes, every day," Osman said.
"Their swimming gets better, but also just their friendships," Bullard said.
But learning how to swim is about a lot more than just fun for these kids. It's about learning to survive if they're ever in enough water to drown.
Bullard said, "I think it's really important because it's giving these kids a life skill."
Benjamin Hair Just Swim for Life Foundation provides grants that fund the scholarship swimmers. All of the scholarship swimmers on the team this year are now "swimming safe", meaning that they can swim in deep water without assistance and will never have to fear accidental drowning.
"Just to see the different kids playing around here, it's such a mix of people from different places, from different races, from different backgrounds and they're all able to come together," said Bullard.
Mohamed said, "You just want to like play around, move around, do stuff in the water and play with your friends."
Many of the kids, who just years ago were afraid of water and unable to swim, will now be competing in the Jefferson Swim League Championships starting on Friday.
Fry's Spring Beach Club Offers Swimming ScholarshipsMore>>