Girl inspired at world’s largest swim lesson - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Girl inspired at world’s largest swim lesson

June 20th, 2018 development
Girl inspired at world’s largest swim lesson

By Sue Breding, Guest Writer


She was only 2 when she started participating in the annual World’s Largest Swim Lesson event each June.

Now, at age 10, even though as an accomplished swimmer she doesn’t need lessons anymore, Bella Gallo of Chandler is preparing to participate in WLSL for what will be her eighth consecutive year.

“Seeing all the kids – including my little sister – and the teachers giving their time to, it is very important to me,” Bella said. “I wouldn’t miss it.”

Last year, more than 41,000 swimmers in 27 countries on six continents participated in this international one-day free swim lesson. Bella participates at SWIMkids USA in Mesa because she is passionate about making a difference in the lives of other children.

According to the CDC, drowning remains the leading cause of injury related death for children ages 1-4, and the second leading cause for children under 14.

Internationally, the World Health Organization estimates drowning is one of the top five causes of death for people ages 1-14 in 48 of the 85 countries it monitors.

In 2014, a survey completed by the American Red Cross found more than half of all Americans (54 percent) either can’t swim or don’t have all of the basic swimming skills.

Parents also don’t recognize supervision is key to keeping their children safe around water.

According to a 2016 Safe Kids Worldwide report, despite the fact that lack of supervision played a role in the majority of drowning deaths, less than half of parents indicate they remain within arms’ reach of their child in the water.

WLSL was created as a platform to build awareness about the fundamental importance of teaching children to swim to prevent drowning.

Each year, WLSL events provide more than 20,000 man-hours of water safety training in a single day. Since its inception, more than 230,000 children and adults have participated in WLSL lessons.

“We always host the World’s Largest Swim Lesson event because it is a show of force and unity across the globe and a wonderful way to share important information about how swim lessons save lives, “ SWIMkids USA founder and President Lana Whitehead said.

“In 2009, Ruth Brenner and her researchers at the National Institute of Health found that formal swim lessons reduced the risk of drowning 88 percent in children ages 1-4.”  

Whitehead said drowning is a serious problem in Arizona, as well as being an international concern and this event often attracts news reporters to do live reports at her facility during the free lesson and thus results in media awareness for this extensive problem.

Whitehead won an International Swimming Hall of Fame award recently for her dedication to community outreach and her many years’ worth of participation in events just like this one. 

She received the prestigious 2018 G. Harold Martin Award for water safety and instruction by the International Swimming Hall of Fame. It recognizes long and exceptional leadership, insight and dedication specifically to the water safety of children..

Bella has learned over the years that she is glad she has taken swim lessons for safety but it is also an activity she truly enjoys.

“I love being in the water and feeling the water around me as I swim,” she said.  

Bella has taken courses recently at SWIMkids USA to learn how to be a lifeguard as a way to continue to make a difference in the lives of others with her passion to keep kids safer around water.

The free lesson will begin at 8 a.m. June 21 at SWIMkids USA at 2725 W. Guadalupe Road in Mesa. Information/registration: 480-820-9109.