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Madison third-graders making waves with SPLASH at Hogan Family YMCA

The SPLASH program at Hogan Family YMCA is open to any interested third-grader in Madison. About 600 Madison children participate in SPLASH. (CONTRIBUTED)
The SPLASH program at Hogan Family YMCA is open to any interested third-grader in Madison. About 600 Madison children participate in SPLASH. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Third-graders in Madison City Schools are headed to the pool with the SPLASH program at Hogan Family YMCA.

“The program was started to help educate the City of Madison’s youth about water safety and swimming,” aquatics director Ginger Upshaw said. “Youth development is one of the YMCA’s areas of focus.”

As a nonprofit, the YMCA “builds healthy spirit, mind and body for all. Our staff loves working with children and wants them to be secure and confident in the water,” Upshaw said. SPLASH is not an acronym but conveys “enjoyment a child feels when they are confident in the water.”

In its fourth year, SPLASH is a partnership among Madison City Schools, City of Madison and YMCA. The city funds the program. The school district transports students. “If one life is saved because of SPLASH, the investment in time and resources has been worthwhile,” Upshaw said.

SPLASH is open to any interested third-grader. The free instruction is part of their school curriculum. About 600 Madison children participate.

“They’re old enough to grasp the concept of water safety. Many have siblings with whom they’ll share what they have learned.” The youngsters gain “confidence and pride of accomplishment, leading to better performance in … reading, classroom work and the drive for excellence,” Upshaw said.

The YMCA staff runs three 35-minute classes concurrently. The aquatics staff reinforces core values by colors: honesty/blue, responsibility/green, caring/red and respect/yellow. Daily topics are pool safety, HELP (Heat Escape Lessening Position), beachfront and water park protection.

The students learn to throw a ‘noodle’ to someone in trouble and how to call for help. “Approximately 75 percent of the kids know how to float. We focus on gliding and arm techniques,” Upshaw said. The staff reassures children who are afraid of the water.

Most third-graders “come out of the water saying, ‘That was awesome!'” Upshaw said.

When SPLASH ends, students receive a workbook that reiterates lessons learned.

“I wish the town I grew up in had a program like SPLASH,” Upshaw said.

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