Flight Fund: Just Add Water

Flight Fund Story of Impact: This blog is part of a series on the impact of the Library Foundation’s Flight Fund, an internal microgrant program exclusively for Library staff to launch innovative new programs, events, and services for the community as well as expand existing programs to reach new audiences.

Water Fun for Everyone Program:
Allegra Westbrooks Regional Library

The Need

Research shows that historically, African Americans are more likely to drown as 64% of African American children cannot swim. Institutional racism, myths and stereotypes, and inherited fear of drowning contribute to why many Black parents do not seek formal swim training. Fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years old. Black children ages 5 to 14 are three times more likely to drown than white children who are the same age.

The Team

In partnership with Henry L. McCrorey YMCA, Allegra Westbrooks Regional Library staff requested Flight Fund dollars to create the “Water Fun for Everyone” program to provide families with an opportunity to learn about water safety and participate in free swim lessons.

Swimming and the Library?

The Library serves as a first step toward learning so many new skills — so why not swimming? Information provided via Library staff, books, and in-branch programming helped demystify learning how to swim and provided the support necessary to make the plunge (literally!)

This program advances the Library’s commitment to equitable practices by providing residents with a unique, and potentially lifesaving, opportunity to connect and learn and keep themselves and their families safe without financial barriers. Celebrating diverse families through community involvement and fostering economic and social inclusivity is part of what makes the Library great.

The Grant

With a budget of $2,500, the team offered free swim lessons for up to 30 participants plus provided swim caps and goggles. Each participant would also receive a book featuring BIPOC protagonists who were swimmers including Jabari Tries. The program included a kick-off event, two weekly swim lessons for four weeks, and a finale event.


I feel honored to be able to partake in a program like this. I believe that history is [the reason why] a good portion of our demographic as a people refuse to swim, or refused to learn to swim,” shared a participant. “I felt like I was doing my community justice by learning.”

 The Impact

The program attracted participants from age 3 to 52. Based on swim ability, some of the teens swam with the adults and some of the parents participated with children who were beginners.

“This program was WONDERFUL!” shared a participant after the finale. “The whole concept of family swim instruction together was novel (and very welcomed), in that I have never had instruction with my son (adult/child) simultaneously. That was great because of the shared experience of enhancing water safety skills, as well as us being able to spend quality time together.”

The program is already showing the lasting effects of programming that address specific community needs. A parent commented, “As a result of this class, we have begun a new family tradition of swimming together.”

“We attend the pool at the rec center every week to practice what we’ve learned to continue to foster a love — as opposed to fear — of the water. We’ve noticed an improvement in our physical health and overall well-being. We intentionally carve out time weekly to foster a love of the water for my child.”

Branch Enhancement, Community, Home Page, Innovation, Libraries Matter, Library Locations, Partnerships

Related Posts