Parents Pitch In And Rescue Swimming Program

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By: Alex Scofield
Published: 08/18/11

Colleen A. Kelley of Pocasset, like many Bourne parents, felt anxious several months ago about the prospect of a summer without swimming lessons at the beach for her two children.

“There was a structure to your summer,” Ms. Kelley said. She loved knowing that she would go to Hen Cove at the same time each weekday morning. Her children enjoyed swimming, and she enjoyed meeting other parents on the beach.
“Otherwise, you stay at the house all day. …I’m not really sure what to do when there aren’t swimming lessons.”

Bourne’s elimination of summer beach lifeguards from the town budget this year also ended the swimming lessons run by the Bourne Department of Recreation at five town beaches, a multi-generational town tradition.

“[The town lessons] used to be a mommy-and-child playdate,” said Laura S. Finton of Pocasset. “My husband did them here growing up; that’s how long they’ve had this.”

“Do I go to another town [for lessons]?” Ms. Kelley wondered as summer approached. “I was thinking about going to Falmouth, or maybe Sandwich.”

Instead, Ms. Kelley and Ms. Finton joined more than 20 area families and took the matter into their own hands. They hired K. Grace Davis, a Bourne High School 2010 graduate and a sophomore at Bryant University, to provide swim lessons for their children three days a week at Hen Cove.

“We all got together and did something, since the town got rid of the lessons,” Ms. Finton said.

Grace was a lifeguard for the Town of Bourne last summer, and has Water Safety Instructor certification from the American Red Cross. It was scary, Grace said, to find out that a summer job she relied on might not come back. “So I took it upon myself to start teaching private swimming lessons,” she said. Grace and the mothers interviewed credited Heather A. DiPaolo of Pocasset for orchestrating the summer lessons. As president of Mothers of Bourne, Ms. DiPaolo knew dozens of mothers like Ms. Kelley and Ms. Finton, who hoped to fill the void in outdoor swimming lessons. By springtime, Ms. Kelley said, Ms. DiPaolo was putting out feelers to parents to see how many of them were interested in private lessons. She also recruited Grace and connected her with interested parents.

“I got a lot of business that way,” Grace said. “It just kind of sprung from there.”

Parents missed the price of town lessons—$35 for an entire summer of lessons, five days a week. Private lessons this summer cost about $150 for two months’ worth of instruction, three days a week, said two of the parents interviewed. In return, children received more hands-on instruction in smaller sessions, agreed a half-dozen parents. Grace capped each session at eight students, and worked with an assistant for some of the high volume sessions. About six children would show up for a typical lesson, said Kerri A. Grobleski of Gray Gables and August sessions were usually smaller than July ones.

“I think it was worth it. [My children] learned a lot,” Ms. Kelley said. “They come out of the lessons knowing their strokes.”

“She’s been awesome,” Ms. Grobleski of Gray Gables said about Grace. “My kids have definitely learned a lot more this summer than in previous summers.”

Elizabeth N. Do of Bourne said Grace helped her 4-year-old daughter Trinh overcome her fear of putting her face in the water. “She’s made huge leaps this summer,” Ms. Do said about Trinh.

The Hen Cove lessons ended for the summer this week, but Grace said she intends to return next summer to teach swimming lessons again. After her freshman year at Bryant, Grace was leaning toward majoring in entrepreneurship.

“This experience has definitely helped me solidify that,” Grace said. After a summer of teaching lessons at Hen Cove, as well as Gray Gables and Sandwich, Grace said, “I’m doing better on my own.”

3 Responses to "Parents Pitch In And Rescue Swimming Program"

  1. In glancing at the title I thought this was another harangue on the perils faced by Bourne swimmers on unguarded beaches. How delightful to read a timely article concerning the role of government instead. There are some who believe government should be large, satisfying everyone’s needs. There are others who believe government should be small with limited scope. This article speaks directly to the battles being waged in town halls and Washington, (I omit Beacon Hill because their direction remains clear, much to the peril of small business.) What should not be lost in this insightful article is fact that with government competition removed, innovation and entrepreneurship had an opportunity to flourish. Grace said it best: “It was scary...to find out that a summer job she relied on might not come back. “So I took it upon myself to start teaching private swimming lessons.”” Not only did Grace met a need within the community and make some change for herself, she also hired an employee. The former government employee now entrepreneur stated:“After a summer of teaching lessons at Hen Cove, as well as Gray Gables and Sandwich, Grace said, “I’m doing better on my own.”’ At first the fee may seem pricey, but given the personal level of instruction and the dangerous element of water, the fee is appropriate. For reference other user fees for schools sports*:$175-Cheerleading, $150-Tennis, $175-Girls Soccer. We have determined we do not want the government involved regarding our decisions in our bedrooms or our wombs, or at the altar. May the same level of enlightenment draw the line at the waiting room. Ms. Grace is hoping to resume her business next year and I hope she has the unfettered opportunity.

  2. In response to BuzzBay6. How about applying your concept to the schools. Those who want education can hire someone who could hire an assistant or two to fill this need. Those who can not afford it or who do not think education important do not have to have participate. And how about police and fire. Again, those who chose to have protection can hire an entrepreneur or other small business. Private security firms would flourish. Bourne's elected selectmen decided that it was more important to fill a newly created position in town hall (salary $69K) this spring rather than fund lifeguards. They decided to keep the cost of beach stickers lower than all surrounding towns, and also the cost of ISWM stickers lower than all surrounding towns (even though Bourne is the only town that has curbside pickup of trash). Sandwich currently charges $110; Falmouth $40; Plymouth $186; Wareham $30; Bourne $30. Bourne is the only town that has curside pickup. How about if curbside trash pick up were eliminated. There are lots of private firms who pick up trash. Those who do not want to pay can take their trash to the ISWM facility.

  3. Buzz, perhaps what you meant was that those most effected by the decision to de-fund the swim instructor positions chose fund it themselves. In these lean times, this is how it must be done. Why should a majority of the tax payers fund these types of programs when only a very few enjoy the benefits. Bravo for them. Personally, my children are grown. When they were younger, I always went to the beach with them. HappyBourneResident, the voters spoke twice, first through their elected selectmen and again at the special session. Personally, I agree with their decision to spend the money elsewhere. Let those parents that want to leave their children at the beach to pay for lifeguards. As far as police and fire protection, you're way off base. Every citizen enjoys lives a more comfortable life because we have police and fire protection.

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