Low-Income Youth in Los Angeles Receive Free Swim Lessons Through Kaiser Permanente’s Operation Splash

Press Release
Smiling group of children in a swimming pool

PASADENA, Calif. — Kaiser Permanente and the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks kicked off the 13th year of Operation Splash at Glassell Pool in Los Angeles to encourage parents and kids in low-income neighborhoods to learn to swim and to reduce drownings.

“We believe people need both health and health care. That’s why we support community activities like Operation Splash,” said Edward Ellison, MD, executive medical director and chairman of the board for the Southern California Permanente Medical Group. “Our hope is that by providing swim lessons and junior lifeguard lessons across Los Angeles once again this summer, we can not only provide young people and adults with an essential life skill, but we can help them to stay healthy, have fun and really thrive.”

Kaiser Permanente awarded a $408,000 grant in 2017-2018 to the Department of Recreation and Parks Aquatics Division for Operation Splash which increases opportunities for safe physical activity and aims to decrease drownings, especially for African-American and Latino children, who historically have low aquatics participation rates. According to the national USA Swimming Foundation, nearly 64 percent of African-American children and 45 percent of Latino children cannot swim.

The Operation Splash Junior Lifeguard program allows youth between 10-17 years of age an opportunity to improve their swimming skills and receive a basic understanding of water rescue and first aid. The Junior Lifeguard program also teaches job skills that enable students to qualify for future employment as lifeguards at pools and beaches.

“I was 5 or 6 years old when I first tried learning to swim and I was terrified,” said 23-year old Kahlif Carter of South Los Angeles. Growing up, no one in his neighborhood was a swimmer, but he enrolled in Operation Splash when he was approximately 10 years old. “I remember I didn’t want to move up in swim class because I was afraid of the deeper water.”

Through Operation Splash, Carter overcame his fears and went on to join the swim team, play high school water polo, become a junior lifeguard and is now a lifeguard at Cabrillo Beach. “I’ve come a long way and I’m really proud of myself. Now, I’m learning to surf. I hope my story inspires other kids to put their fears aside and take the plunge.”

This summer season, Kaiser Permanente’s Operation Splash grant underwrites swim lessons for 6,000 children, teenagers and adults; provides junior lifeguard scholarships for 780 youth; and increases participation in the Rethink Your Drink Campaign, which raises awareness about the unhealthy impacts of sugary beverages and the benefits of drinking water. Swim lessons will take place at 36 pools in Los Angeles and junior lifeguard lessons will be offered at 48 sites.

“Swimming is a survival skill that everyone should be equipped with. The city’s various aquatic facilities provide plenty of accessible options for increasing one’s confidence in the water, ranging from learning how to swim to competitive engagement through water sports and team building,” said Mike Shull, general manager, Department of Recreation and Parks. “The option to beat the heat by making a splash should be at the top of every family’s list and swim lesson enrollment is the first step to a fun and safe summer.”

“Learning to swim can save your life,” said Renata Simril, president and chief executive officer, LA84 Foundation. “Drowning claims the lives of about 3,500 people each year and nearly 25 percent of them are children under the age of 14. The problem is particularly daunting in ethnically diverse communities, where the drowning rate is almost three times the national average. That’s why it is so important to educate parents and children on the importance of learning to swim.”

Operation Splash is part of Kaiser Permanente’s Healthy Eating, Active Living (or HEAL) efforts to reduce obesity in the community by increasing opportunities for safe physical activity and access to healthy and affordable foods. Kaiser Permanente has granted nearly $7 million for Operation Splash since the program’s inception. Based on its success in Los Angeles, Operation Splash has expanded to six other Southern California cities, bringing its total pledge in 2017–2018 to $856,143.

Additional Operation Splash grants for summers 2017 and 2018 include:

  • City of San Bernardino, Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department, San Bernardino: $79,500
  • City of Riverside, Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department, Riverside: $84,150
  • Desert Recreation District, Coachella Valley Recreation and Park District, Indio: $84,150
  • City of Bakersfield, Department of Recreation and Parks, Bakersfield: $53,550
  • City of Ventura, Parks, Recreation, and Community Partnerships Department, Ventura: $53,293
  • Friends of Chula Vista Parks and Recreation, Chula Vista: $93,500

Please visit the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks’ website at www.laparks.org, or call 323-906-7953 for information about participating pools in the area.

About the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks Aquatics Division
The Department of Recreation and Parks maintains over 16,000 acres of parkland with over 430 neighborhood and regional parks, 184 recreation centers and facilities, 368 children’s play areas, 321 tennis courts, 256 ball fields, 31 senior centers, 13 golf courses, nine dog parks, 21 skate parks, 51 swimming pools, 12 museums and an urban forest of one million trees and 92 miles of hiking trails. The Department also provides after school enrichment programs for children and teens including music, dance, and athletic programs. For more information about the Department of Recreation and Parks, please visit www.laparks.org.

About LA84 Foundation
The LA84 Foundation is a nationally recognized leader in support of youth sports programs and public education programs about the role of sports in positive youth development. The Foundation, with more than 30-years of on-the-ground experience, has supported thousands of Southern California youth sports organizations through grant making, while also training coaches, commissioning research, convening conferences and acting as a national thought leader on important youth sports issues. The LA84 Foundation levels the playing field so that sports are accessible to all children, while elevating the field of youth sports as an integral part of American life. To learn more, visit www.la84.org and @LA84Foundation on Instagram and Twitter.

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 12.2 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/share.