JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – No one ever taught Irma Latimer to swim. That's why the 62-year-old Jacksonville woman is dead set on making sure her grandchildren learn how.
It was that goal that brought Latimer and her 14-year-old grandson, Rashawn, to the Williams Family YMCA in Mandarin recently to take his free swim test as part of the Safety Around Water campaign.
There, Rashawn and other children took the plunge. The group treaded water for a minute, swam the length of the pool and jumped into the deep end where the water reaches above their heads.
Rashawn was thrilled when he passed. He was already confident he could swim, but it became official when he rang the bell after completing the free swim safety test.
"I did a swim test and I passed it, so I'm good now," he said afterward.
Safety Around Water, a joint initiative between WJXT and First Coast YMCA, is designed to help families ensure their loved ones know what to do in case of a water emergency.
It starts with a free swim test. Those who pass have a chance of winning a free six-month YMCA membership. But participants who don't pass could still be eligible for free swim lessons at the Y.
"I feel excited," said Rashawn. "I can help my little brother swim too... I'll start helping him more."
But his younger brother isn't the only family member who could use some encouragement around the pool. Now, his grandmother is looking into swimming lessons for herself, too.
"It's important because I may be able to save someone's life where I'm at a pool with my grandkids and someone's there that do not know how to swim, and I can save their life," said Latimer.
As part of the Safety Around Water campaign, the goal is to have 5,000 children pass the Y safe swim test by summer's end, or when school begins in mid-August. So far, 2,181 have passed the test.
You can visit the Y for the swim safety test throughout this summer or visit FirstCoastYMCA.org for more details.