Pool Party: Dozens celebrate learning to swim in Jacksonville

Shawn Delifus Foundation sponsors drowning-prevention program

By Allyson Henning - Reporter, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Pearl Brown has been afraid of water since she was a little girl. 

Now, the 72-year-old great-grandmother looks like a natural.

She learned how to swim in two months as part of a free drowning-prevention program made possible by The Shawn Delifus Foundation -- named in memory of a Julington Creek swim coach who died suddenly two years ago.

His mother, Joyce Delifus, said she is working to help people of all ages learn to swim because that’s what her son would have wanted. 

“The impact is amazing,” Delifus said. “To see a 7-month-old baby swimming and climbing out of the pool on their own without the assistance of mom and dad -- it heals my heart.”

The Raines High School pool was surrounded with people cheering Saturday morning as City Council members Garrett Dennis and Terrance Freeman handed out medals helping 86 people celebrate the accomplishment of learning to swim.

Not long ago, many of them were scared to even step foot in the water, and now, they’re comfortable making a splash.

Now that Brown is at home in the water, she said she’s looking forward to fine-tuning her skills. 

“I’m just going to keep on practicing until I become like an Olympic star,” Brown said, joking. “I’m not going to be no Michael Phelps now and all that good stuff, but I’m going to be me.”

The Shawn Delifus Foundation has put on the swim program for two summers in a row. 

Joyce Delifus said her goal is to make it a year-round program for people all across the city.

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