New Albany teenager Parker Edman was surprised to learn that 70 percent of children in low-income families cannot swim and they are 30 percent more likely to drown in deep water.
So the New Albany High School freshman organized a free swimming clinic at the YMCA in downtown Columbus for his Eagle Scout project.
When trying to think of an idea for the project, his father, Dale, suggested choosing something he likes.
"Swimming is my sport," Edman said. "I learned to swim at a very young age. I was on the seventh-grade swim team at the middle school and hope to be on the high school swim team."
Edman took his idea to Joel MacCaughey, aquatics director for the YMCA in downtown Columbus, and the two planned and scheduled the swimming clinic.
"He had the idea and we worked together to find the best way to pull it off," MacCaughey said. "We reached out to kids in the downtown community through contacts and resources we have."
Edman said it takes longer to coordinate a class than one might think, saying he learned "preparation" was the key to success.
"You have to make sure you have all your research done in time," he said.
MacCaughey agreed that "getting everyone on the same page" was the hardest part of the project.
To publicize the event and encourage children to sign up, Edman said, he worked with a local elementary school and gave a presentation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbus, which meets next door to the YMCA.
He had 30 children participate in the free sessions last week, which featured a 45-minute swimming lesson every day for four days. During each session, the students learned about pool safety, water games and swimming stroke development, MacCaughey said.
Each child also received a T-shirt and a swimsuit and was treated to a snack after each lesson. Clothing and snacks were paid for by donations Edman collected for the project.
MacCaughey said free YMCA swimming lessons, which run from Oct. 29 to Dec. 16, also were offered to each participant.
"I think this is going to help a lot of people and it's going to save lives," Edman said. "What I want to take away from this is I want to be able to learn how to better run a project, which will help when going into a career in business."
Edman is a member of Troop 699, which is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Huber Village Boulevard in Westerville. He joined the Scouts at age 8 and completed the highest rank of Cub Scouts before becoming a Boy Scout.
Eagle Scout is the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve. It requires a Boy Scout to earn 21 merit badges and organize, lead, manage and complete an extensive service project before he turns 18.
MacCaughey said he was impressed the 14-year-old Edman wanted to complete his Eagle Scout project early.