Goldfish Swim School - Winter Park Announces 2nd Annual Partnership with Alijah’s Awareness Providing Swim Lesson Scholarships
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Goldfish Swim School - Winter Park Announces 2nd Annual Partnership with Alijah’s Awareness Providing Swim Lesson Scholarships

Scholarship Program Aims to Bring Greater Awareness to Autism and Drowning Prevention for All Children

April 05, 2022 // // Winter Park Fla. - In honor and celebration of Autism Acceptance Month, Goldfish Swim School - Winter Park announces its second annual partnership with Alijah’s Awareness and the Alijah’s Swimmers Scholarships program. This year’s program will provide 10, three-month swim lesson packages to local children so they have the opportunity to learn a lifesaving skill and become safer in and around the water. From April 5-30, community members are encouraged to submit an entry form for an opportunity to become scholarship recipients, or nominate a deserving family.

While drowning remains the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-4, research shows that kids on the autism spectrum are 160 times more likely to die from drowning compared with the general pediatric population. This, paired with the fact that Florida leads the nation in childhood drownings, makes this partnership immensely important. The state of Florida has already made strides to combat these staggering statistics, such as passing legislation like the Every Child a Swimmer Law. Goldfish Swim School and Alijah’s Awareness hope to build on this, and play an even greater role in bringing awareness to the need for increased water safety and education for all children.

The Alijah’s Awareness platform was founded by Allyson Alvarez and Eric Gonzalez after their daughter, Alijah, was diagnosed on the autism spectrum when she was 14 months old. The platform was created to share their family’s story and inspire other families going through similar experiences. Sadly, in 2019 they faced a heartbreaking tragedy, losing their two-year-old daughter to a drowning accident while vacationing in Florida.

After the tragedy, they uncovered the staggering statistics on childhood drownings for children with autism, and felt passionately about bringing greater awareness to drowning prevention. After learning more about Goldfish Swim School and its proprietary philosophy, The Science of SwimPlay®, which builds life skills both in and out of the water using play-based learning in a fun and safe environment, they sought out a partnership opportunity to make a positive impact.

“We are so grateful to be able to pursue this partnership opportunity for a second year in a row as we’ve seen its tremendous impact first-hand,” said Gina Jacobs Thomas, owner of Goldfish Swim School – Winter Park. “We had 10 amazing swimmers in the program last year, and to see their confidence strengthen in and around the water has been so rewarding. We look forward to welcoming new children to our school this year and are beyond appreciative of the Alijah’s Awareness donation and their ongoing commitment to spreading the important message of water safety.”

The 2022 scholarship recipients will be announced on Goldfish Swim School – Winter Park’s social media the first week of May. Each winning family will be contacted directly to begin the onboarding process and gear up for lessons just in time for National Water Safety Month (May) and the summer season ahead.

“Goldfish Swim School and Alijah’s Awareness have been such a blessing in our lives,” said Sherica Scherer, mother to eight-year-old Elijah, who was named a 2021 scholarship recipient and is currently taking lessons at Goldfish Swim School – Winter Park. “It gave my son the opportunity to learn how to swim with instructors who have been extremely caring and work so well with him - especially with his additional needs. Elijah is autistic and prior to Goldfish, did not know how to swim, but to see the progress he’s made with lessons it truly remarkable. We express a huge amount of gratitude for sharing this gift to families that might not have had the opportunity or means otherwise. It is such a wonderful thing to share the experience of a life-saving opportunity.”

This scholarship program has already made a positive impact in the lives of families across the community and will continue to do so, as swim lessons have proved to have the ability to help reduce the risk of childhood drownings by 88%. As families prepare for lessons, parents are encouraged to speak with the instructors about their child’s strengths and preferred teaching styles to enhance the experience and reinforce the important skills they’ll learn.

“It is so important to promote conversations about water safety, drowning prevention and the value of swim lessons at a young age, for all children,” said Dr. Molly O'Shea of Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center and official pediatrician of Goldfish Swim School. “Some children on the autism spectrum have a superpower: Focus. This superpower can be valuable when they are learning a new skill or have a new interest, but it can also lead to wandering which can pose dangers when paired with the fact that autistic children have a heightened interest and curiosity for water – making water safety and drowning prevention absolutely essential skills to begin teaching early and often.”

Goldfish Swim School provides swim lessons and water safety instruction to infants and children ages four months to 12 years, teaching children how to be safer in and around the water. Select schools offer a GOLDEN Learners program that is designed to help children with autism and special needs who may need a modified approach to swim lessons. Each school’s number one focus and main priority is always the same – educating children on water safety while teaching them how to swim and respect the water.

“We could not have found a more supportive and passionate partner than Goldfish Swim School,” said Alvarez. “It’s been amazing to see the impact of this program and we know we’ll be able to help even more families this year as we continue to honor Alijah’s legacy. We’re here to help anyone who wants swim lessons for their children, not just those with special needs. Drowning can happen anywhere at any time, to anyone.”

SOURCE Goldfish Swim School



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