SYCAMORE – Rebecca Allen had some simple plans Friday morning: try to break a world record and hop in a pool with 143 of her closest friends.
The Sycamore 9-year-old got the chance to do both as part of the World's Largest Swimming Lesson at the Kishwaukee Family YMCA.
More than 40,000 people from across the world – including 144 kids at the YMCA – attempted to break a Guinness World Record and promote swimming safety as part of the World's Largest Swimming Lesson.
The goal of the lesson is to promote the importance of teaching children how to swim. According to the World's Largest Swimming Lesson organization, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death among children ages one to 14, killing 1,027 kids in 2010.
Some 35,000 people participated in the event last year, although the local YMCA swimmers were not among them. The Y has hosted a swim lesson akin to the World's Largest, but until this year timing never worked out for the local agency to part of the worldwide event, said Youth Development Director Lesley Feyerherm.
Because it was held on Friday this year, YMCA officials incorporated it into their summer camp.
“We like to do different events in camp that allow our campers to see they're a part of something bigger,” Feyerherm said.
Children participated in a 30-minute swimming lesson, which goes hand-in-hand with the Kishwaukee YMCA's priorities, said Aquatics Director Lesley Webster.
“We want to encourage swimming and encourage a life-long love of the water,” Webster said, adding lifeguards at the YMCA have to jump in to rescue someone about once a month.
The YMCA hosts swimming lessons for 15 levels of swimmers depending on their abilities in the water. Some kids arrive terrified of the water while others, like Allen, enjoy it, but understand there's some skill involved to staying safe.
“I have more to learn because I don't swim as well as the other kids,” Allen said. “I like to swim and just float on my back.”
Mario Baxtrom, 8, of DeKalb, said he was one of the kids scared to go into the water until he started taking lessons about a year ago. He had to use floaties and couldn't swim on his own to the side of the pool.
But on Friday he showed up sans floaties ready for a dip.
“I was a little scared, but now I feel good,” Baxtrom said. “I like swimming.”