Why SWIMkids USA began

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.

My story– 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.

Ho Ho Holiday Gratitude

Happy December. We want to extend a heartfelt thank you to you for making your family a part of our family!

Reflecting on the past year, we are tremendously grateful SWIMkids USA received numerous prestigious awards that distinguished our organization and our leadership as best-in-class.

We appreciate knowing these designations are validations that we’re on the right track with the specific methodology we follow to help children love to learn.

This year’s honors include:

  • 2015 Best Aquatic Program – Arizona Parks & Recreation Association
  • 2015 Most Admired Leader, Lana Whitehead – Phoenix Business Journal
  • 2015 Best Place to Work – The Arizona Republic
  • 2015 Best of Mesa Recreational Activity – East Valley Tribune newspaper
  • 2015 Safety Geek Award – Maricopa County Safe Kids Coalition
  • 2015 Adolph Kiefer Safety Commendation Award, Lana Whitehead – USA Swimming. (This highly prestigious honor from USA Swimming Convention goes to an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to safe swimming in the United States.)

Here are more things we are grateful for!

Melissa Sutton: I am grateful for my family, health and work and for the heightened way that during the holiday season we often think of others. We try to visit family more often during this time or reach out to friends and family we haven’t spoken with in a while. When I was a child, we used to go out to the family’s 40 acres and spend hours searching for the perfect Christmas tree to cut down, haul back and set up in our living room.Those trips also included instructions on how to get the tree down (if in a dense part of the forest) and how to drag it out – especially on those instances we had hiked a mile in. And then, the decorating began! That was worth every moment of cold and hiking through snow up to my waist. Oh, how I loved to decorate the tree – and still do!

Nathan Askins: I am so grateful for all the wonderful families and children that I have been blessed to teach this year. They all have played such a wonderful part in my life and I am so happy to know all of them. On Christmas when I was a kid, my sisters and all my cousins would sleep over at my grandparents’ house. We would wake up early and my grandpa (who loved Christmas more than any kid) would line us up youngest to oldest. He would bring us to the door that led us to our Christmas present. He would let each child peek through the door for a millisecond, building up the anticipation before Christmas morning began!

Shaunna Risinger: I am grateful for my family. I am also grateful for being able to work with so many amazing families and little ones each day. I love my work family and I have the best boss anyone could ask for! My favorite would have to be road tripping to Arizona for Christmas with my family. I loved spending Christmases out here as I grew up in Michigan and loved packing shorts and t-shirts for a December/January trip. SO many great memories were made on these trips.

Britt Kimball: I am thankful for my job at SWIMkids USA because I know I’ve made a difference in the lives of my students. As an aquatic instructor, I equipped my students with the skills they need to be safer in an emergency. I taught them how to live active, healthy lives. I built muscle, smiles and brain power. I can share these ideals because Lana Whitehead has taught me how to articulate them. She started SWIMkids USA because water safety is her passion, which inspires my passion as well. I truly think that the curriculum she created is the best in the country