Parents Pitch In And Rescue Swimming Program
By: Alex Scofield
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.”