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Operation Splash!
Join the celebration on Tuesday, August 17, as the City of Chula Vista continues Operation Splash, the expansion of its elementary school swim program. A third installment of $50,000 donated by Kaiser Permanente made it possible to extend the swimming series. This makes a total of $150,000 in grant funding given to the City by the company of three years for the program.

As a result, another 1,000 local fourth graders will be allowed to participate in the Recreation Department's Elementary Learn to Swim (ELTS) program. The donation covers the expenses of swimming lessons for two weeks as well as costs from transporting students from their schools to city pools. The program aim is to help kids who live in low-income neighborhoods learn the invaluable lessons about water safety and also addresses childhood obesity.

During Tuesday's Operation Splash, 120 fourth graders from Rosebank Elementary School will be showing off their newly acquired swimming skills at the Parkway Family Aquatic Center (385 Park Way) at 10 a.m. City officials and community representatives including Mayor Cheryl Cox will be on hand to recognize their hard work and to thank Kaiser Permanente representatives for their support.

"Kaiser Permanente's continued partnership with the City's Elementary Learn to Swim program is a generous and valuable gift to the youth in our community," said Mayor Cheryl Cox. "Through Elementary Learn to Swim, children participate in fun fitness activities and learn critical lifesaving skills that will benefit them for a lifetime."

Nearly 4,000 students have participated in ELTS beginning in 2006 and 2,270 children have learned to swim through Operation Splash thanks to Kaiser Permanente's grant since 2008. The program teaches swimming, water safety and healthy living skills. With drowning continuing to be the leading cause of accidental death among children in San Diego County, these lessons are imperative. Chula Vista's warm weather and proximity to the coast makes learning to swim even more vital for local children. Of the 2009 participants, nearly 60% of the students in ELTS have never had a swim lesson before, yet nearly 99% of the children reporting spending time at beaches, pools or lakes.

"In addition to promoting safety, Operation Splash encourages children to be more active. And the more active they become, the healthier they will be," said Paul Bernstein, M.D., area Medical Director of Kaiser Permanente's San Diego Medical Center. "This program is a great example of what can be done through the power of community partnerships."

Many of the schools participating in ELTS program are located in neighborhoods where obesity rates are among the highest in the nation. Swimming helps kids increase aerobic capacity and improve their overall fitness. Students will be monitored throughout the program to measure their progress and endurance. And they'll be encouraged to participate in a multitude of other free recreation programs offered by the City's Recreation Department.

As the City struggles with ongoing budget difficulties, the grant from Kaiser Permanente comes at a crucial time for the Recreation Department.

"We strive to achieve our mission, despite these tough economic times," said Recreation Director Buck Martin. "Community collaboration is critical to the survival of our programs, and more importantly, to our kids. With Kaiser Permanente supporting our mission, we are able to make an impact in the health of future generations."

In 2005 the Friends of Chula Vista Parks and Recreation was developed to identify and raise funds for the Elementary Learn to Swim program. The non-profit organization continues to play an integral role in ensuring these types of programs are available throughout Chula Vista.

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