As the school year ends, another group of elementary school children has once again completed free swim lessons at the Kimball Aquatic Center in Ventura, thanks to an annual grant that funds Kaiser Permanente’s regional Operation Splash program.
Kaiser Permanente’s Operation Splash program’s mission is to support aquatic facilities and swim programs that help increase physical activity in low-income areas, diminish the risk of chronic disease, and build strong bodies. The program encourages all participants to become water-safe in a fun and healthy environment.
Operation Splash is run as an after-school program serving children from the Ventura Unified School District who are part of the PEAK program, a partnership between the School District and the City of Ventura Parks and Recreation Department.
The mission of the PEAK program is to provide low-income, underserved and at-risk children attending seven local elementary schools in some of Ventura’s most impoverished neighborhoods a safe environment after school and provide recreational, cultural and academic enrichment.
Each year the program serves around 400 children ranging in age from 8 to 13, with most in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, who are transported to the Aquatic Center by bus for 30-minute swimming lessons twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. After their lesson they are transported back to their PEAK after school center in time for parent pick up.
“They are so excited when they get to board that bus going to the Aquatic Center,” said Judy Devine, Community Recreation Manager for the City of Ventura Parks and Recreation Department. “It is like they are heading to Disneyland.”
Devine points out that the obvious benefit of the program is that children who would likely never have access to swimming lessons get the chance to become water safe and learn to swim.
“Many of these kids live just miles from the beach and go often with their families, but are at high risk if not able to be safe in the water,” she added. But there are other less apparent benefits, Devine points out, such as the confidence they build as they learn to swim. “Kaiser Permanente should feel very proud to know that this investment in the children of Ventura literally changes their lives.”
Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of Kaiser Permanente’s Operation Splash program in Ventura and since its inception it has helped thousands of local children learn to swim. Many of the children who started in the program during the early years have gone on to become excellent swimmers, participate in competitive swimming and water polo and become junior lifeguards. Some of them have even become employees of the Aquatic Center.