SWIMkids USA has won the Healthcare Leadership award for community impact given by AZ Business magazine. The award reflects the hard work of staff and the passion and direction of Lana Whitehead who started her business back in 1971.We thought this was a great opportunity to share Lana’s story of why SWIMkids USA began.
– By Lana Whitehead, Founder of SWIMkids USA
I began to develop the SWIMkids USA swim method when my first son was an infant. I knew how vitally important early swimming instruction was in the southwest. The sharply increasing number of home swimming pools in the warmer climates had contributed to the higher incidence of childhood drowning in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Also, by introducing my child to the water at an early age, I could help prevent the terror and resulting fear which often accompanies a negative aquatic experience.
In 1971, I started taking my son Lance to the YMCA in Pleasant Hill California to get him acclimated to water. He was only four months old at the time. The experience was so bonding and enjoyable for the both us, that he was paddling underwater and floating on his back in a matter of weeks. The director of the Y observed our private water sessions and asked me to develop a baby program for their facility. The classes were popular and grew very quickly. The next thing we knew, our program was being featured on all the San Francisco Bay area news programs.
During 1972 when our program was in its infancy, a friend’s son was found floating in her parent’s backyard pool. After days of stay in the intensive care unit with no improvement in his condition, three-year-old Todd was removed from life support. I was there when my friend, Trutti on the advice of physicians had to make the decision to take her son off the breathing machines. Todd and my son Lance had been playmates in their nursery, primary and Sunday school classes since they were infants.
I will never forget the sadness I felt for Todd’s sweet mother as she made the selfless decision to let him leave this life in peace. A year later another sweet sister from church lost her three-year-old son in a similar backyard drowning. After experiencing these tragic deaths with my devastated friends, I vowed I would dedicate my life to water safety and drowning prevention. In 1974, I dedicated my first book “Incredible Swimfants” to the memory of Todd Gleason and Brian Westburg. Two precious young boys who were tragically robbed of full lives because they were unacquainted with water safety techniques and there were no barriers around the pools.
After moving to Arizona in 1998 we were contacted by NBC to publicize baby swimming. Since that time, SWIMkids USA has been featured on the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, CBS Morning Show, That’s Incredible, Omni Medical Documentary, Montel Williams Show, PM Magazine and numerous local news broadcasts as advocates for water safety and drowning prevention.
SWIMkids USA has assumed a leadership role in drowning prevention awareness and demonstrated outstanding achievement in creating awareness of proven drowning prevention strategies with its regular speaking appearances at conferences all over the world. We have made a significant contribution to improve water safety and successfully promoted the use of new drowning prevention technologies by developing the SWIMkids USA method which has taught over 50,000 children. SWIMkids USA is viewed as an advocate for drowning prevention by increasing public attention at the policy making level by appearing regularly in the media, and authoring five books on the subject.