Make a splash learning life-saving skills

STOWE, Vt. (WCAX) As summer approaches, Vermonters are getting ready to enjoy rivers, ponds, lakes and pools. But, for some, getting into the water can be a daunting task. So, a local swim spot is teaming up with the National Swimming Saves Lives Foundation to prove it's never too late to try.

It's all part of Vermont and National Adult Learn to Swim Month. According to the foundation, more than 30 percent of adults in the United States can't swim the length of a pool, and about 10 people drown every day, a majority of them adults.

Channel 3's Christina Guessferd waded into The Swimming Hole in Stowe, where you can take free lessons every Wednesday night in April to learn life-saving skills.

"It's the best thing I do for my health," Paula Ratchford said.

Swimming has become a regular part of Ratchford's fitness routine. Studies show it has health benefits like stress relief and a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. But, until recently, Ratchford's only skills in the pool were self-taught.

"I just didn't really know how to swim properly, and it's more fun when you know how to do it properly," she said.

So, she signed up for formal lessons at The Swimming Hole, where world-class instructors like Executive Swim Coach Charlotte Brynn are making a splash.

"I'd like to see the barriers broken down to see more adults get in and enjoy what myself and others do -- swimming," Brynn said. She said some of the biggest barriers are built on deep-seeded fears.

"They've either had a near-death experience drowning themselves and they relive that emotion, or they've watched a loved one or a friend who's had a similar incident," Brynn said.

And Brynn said it's part of her job to help wash away those doubts, one stroke at a time.

"You work at your own pace. You're never rushed into the water," Brynn said. "If you treat the water well, it will support and look after you."

Speaking of support, the National Swimming Saves Lives Foundation has given over $132,000 in grants to 69 programs like this one around the country.

"Even if you don't like a water lifestyle, you never know who you're going to meet or where you're going to travel, and you're going to wish you knew how to swim. So, when you have a chance to learn and learn from people who can really help you do it well, I think it's a fantastic opportunity that shouldn't be passed up," said U.S. Masters Swimming Manager Holly Neumann.

Stowe received a $2,800 grant, keeping the program afloat for developing swimmers like Paula Ratchford.

"You'll find out that it's a lot more natural than you think," she said.