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City of Boston Hosts Olympic Swimmers, Kicks Off International Water Safety Day Events

The City of Boston was joined by Olympic swimmers Cullen Jones and Janelle Atkinson to kick off a series of events to raise awareness of International Water Safety Day, an annual day of recognition to bring global awareness about drowning prevention.

The morning reception kicks off two days of events that will include visits to two Boston Public Schools, a technique clinic for youth at the BCYF Flaherty Pool in Roslindale, and a water safety festival and swim lesson at the BCYF Mattahunt Community Center in Mattapan. This series of events is the latest in the City of Boston’s Swim Safe campaign that strives to improve water safety by making swim lessons and water access top priorities. 

Learning to swim is one part of Mayor Wu’s Connect, Learn, Explore, her commitment to the city’s youth to ensure they have the resources and opportunities to thrive and explore their passions. This is an important step to make Boston a home for everyone.

“With summer approaching, our children should be able to experience the joy of being in our water and pools, with their families knowing that they are doing so safely,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “I am grateful for our community partners that are emphasizing the importance of water safety to ensure that Boston is the most family-friendly city.”

During the event, Olympic swimmers Cullen Jones and Janelle Atkinson McClave shared their experiences of learning to swim and rising to the highest levels of competitive swimming. 

“USA Swimming is proud to help raise awareness of water safety and swimming programs across the country by expanding our community support of International Water Safety Day to four locations,” USA Swimming Managing Director of Sport Development Joel Shinofield said. “As we prepare to name our next Olympic team in June, we are reminded that every athlete starts by first putting their goggles on and learning how to swim.” 

Chief of Human Services José F. Massó unveiled a new City-run water safety public information campaign that will be posted on social media, city billboards, and MBTA bus shelters this summer with the goal of encouraging residents, and especially caregivers of young children, to take steps to keep their children safe around water this summer. The City also announced a new round of grant awards totalling $150,000 to support free lessons at the YMCA of Greater Boston, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, West End House, and Dot House Health. 

“We want all families in Boston to have a safe, fun summer,” said José F. Massó, Chief of Human Services. “With the help of our partners, we’re spreading the word about water safety and giving residents the tools they need to keep themselves and their kids safe around water this summer.”

The City’s efforts to expand swim lessons is a public health issue. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children and that the risk of drowning is higher for children of color. Black children are more than twice as likely as white children to die of drowning. For every child who dies of drowning, there are seven non-fatal drownings, which are traumatic and can lead to health issues later in life. Swim Safe Boston seeks to improve water safety in Boston, address the public health threat posed by drowning, and increase access to swimming for Boston families.

“As summer approaches, we are thrilled to partner with the City of Boston and Swim Safe to bring the joy of swimming to every child,” said Jeff Bellows, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Public Affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “By investing in water safety education, we’re promoting fun and healthy activities, addressing systemic inequities and ensuring all community members have the opportunity to safely enjoy Boston’s pools and beaches.”

Boston Centers for Youth & Families also offer free lessons at their pools. There is currently no charge for membership or programming but visitors need to create a membership at

“It's such a unique opportunity and incredible honor to partner with elite swimmers and institutions on Boston's effort to promote swim safety throughout our city," said Marta E. Rivera, Commissioner of Boston Centers for Youth & Families. "In a waterfront city like Boston, it's imperative that all youth have the tools to safely enjoy all that Boston has to offer in the summer- including our pools and beaches."

“We are incredibly proud to host Olympic swimmers at a number of our schools this week to share their important message about water safety with our kids,” said Superintendent Mary Skipper. “Learning to swim and having access to pools is so important for Boston’s young people, and hearing this message from elite athletes who are spending quality time with our students has a powerful impact. We are proud of our ongoing collaboration with BCYF, City Hall, and others to ensure that our kids can safely enjoy our pools all summer long.” 

The Mayor’s commitment to swim access is seen in many neighborhoods across the city. Because of a collaboration between Boston Public Schools, Boston Centers for Youth & Families, the Public Facilities Department, and the Property Management Department, investments of City funding, and improved facilities assessment, the City is on track to have more pools open this year than in previous summers, including the BCYF Clougherty, Draper, Hennigan, Marshall, and Perkins pools. BCYF Marshall Community Center pool opened in fall 2023 and the BCYF Mattahunt opened recently. The Draper, Hennigan, and Perkins are expected to be open this summer as is the Clougherty Pool, which is undergoing a two-year renovation. This fiscal year, Mayor Wu allocated $34.3 million in the FY24-FY28 capital plan for repairing and renovating the city's pools.

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