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Swim Season Kicks Off With a Splash!
Joshua loves to swim. “When I am in the water I feel great, like I can do anything,” said the 23-year old Los Angeles native and alternate for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in aquatics. Recently, Joshua was invited to lead the pledge of allegiance at the kickoff ceremony of Operation Splash, a free summer program that teaches children and adults in underserved communities to swim.
Joining Fontelera was Luke, a former Special Olympics aquatics athlete who has spent seven years swimming for the organization and competing in events ranging from freestyle to breast stroke. Both athletes were overjoyed about representing the Special Olympics before dignitaries and guests gathered to celebrate the kickoff of Operation Splash at Downey Pool in Lincoln Heights.
Luke, who is featured in an upcoming “Be Brave” campaign to celebrate the 2015 World Games athletes, closed the festivities by reciting the Special Olympics’ athlete's oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
The celebration marked the tenth consecutive year that Kaiser Permanente provides access to swim lessons through Operation Splash. This year, Kaiser Permanente is providing $483,849 in grants across Southern California to promote physical activity.
In Los Angeles alone, Kaiser Permanente’s Operation Splash grant for $240,000 will underwrite swim lessons for approximately 6,000 children, teenagers and adults at 34 pools across Los Angeles, in areas where health disparities are greatest and opportunities for safe physical activity are often scarce. The grant will also provide junior lifeguard scholarships for 780 youth at 47 sites, helping to increase pool safety and minimize the number of drownings that occur every year. These scholarships provide paying jobs for young people in areas where employment opportunities are limited, offering a path to success for many.
Additionally, the grant serves to promote participation in the “Rethink Your Drink Campaign," which raises awareness about the unhealthy impacts of sugary beverages and the benefits of drinking water. Rethink Your Drink serves to educate all members of the community about the importance of staying hydrated during the summer months, emphasizing the need to choose water instead of sugary beverages that lead to weight gain and cavities.
“Operation Splash is about making sure children and their families get out there and are active,” said Aaron Rubin, MD, sports medicine fellowship program director and regional Special Olympics lead, Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Exercise for life transforms the lives of athletes with learning disabilities, helps prevent diseases such as diabetes and cancer and improves Total Health by making lives better.”
Operation Splash is part of Kaiser Permanente’s Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) efforts to reduce obesity in the community by increasing opportunities for safe physical activity and access to healthy and affordable foods. Since the inception of Operation Splash in 2006, Kaiser Permanente’s financial commitment, funded as a Community Benefit program, has grown to more than $5.3 million.
Operation Splash grants in 2015 include:
- City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks Department, Aquatics Division: $240,000
- City of Riverside, Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department, Riverside: $49,500
- Desert Recreation District, Coachella Valley Recreation and Park District, Indio: $49,500
- City of San Bernardino, Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department, San Bernardino: $27,000
- North of the River Recreation and Park District, Bakersfield: $31,500
- Friends of Chula Vista Parks and Recreation, Chula Vista: $55,000
- City of Ventura, Community Services Department, Ventura: $31,349
For information about participating pools in the Los Angeles area, please visit the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks’ website at www.laparks.org.